Clinical trials can help people with certain impairments obtain new or improved medical treatment.  In addition to advancing the cause of science, participants are often provided financial compensation for their time, travel, efforts, discomfort and risk.  In many situations, SSI claimants, beneficiaries and their families can participate without any effect on their benefits.


The “Improving Access to Clinical Trials” Act amended the Social Security Act so that the first $2000 of payment per calendar year for participation in certain types of clinical trials is not counted towards income or resources for SSI recipients, spouses or deemers.  The money does not need to be kept in a separate account and can be excluded from resources if if received before an individual applies for SSI.


POMS SI 01130.735 provides general information on the exclusion and POMS SI 00830.735 explains the criteria a trial must meet for compensation to be excluded.


For people who are eligible for Medicare, each state and district maintains a State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) funder through the Department of Health and Human Services to provide advice and advocacy on Medicare issues.  A directory of SHIPs is available at


SHIPs can advise on the original Medicare program, Medicare Advantage (Part C), Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D), Medicare Supplemental (Medigap) policies and long term care insurance.  They can ask discuss the ways that Medicare interacts with and can be made more affordable by other programs, including Medicaid, the Medicare Savings Program, and the Low Income Subsidy.

Sue Brandon got a huge surprise when she checked her bank account one day. She had received a Social Security deposit of $13,098.

The massive amount is a far cry from the $4 per month increase that the Social Security Administration had told her she would be getting after her husband passed away.

“I called them and said, ‘Hey, something’s wrong because there’s no way you can owe me this $13,000,’” she said. …

Brandon said she called the Social Security office over and over again but was repeatedly old they couldn’t get to the bottom of it.

The Brandon said one of the SSA employees snapped at her: “I don’t know what to tell you anymore. Call your congressman.” …

“I’ve never had such a hard time giving back money,” she said. …

Many attorneys have the same problem when an when an attorney fee is overpaid. We issue a check refunding the money to Social Security but the agency immediately issues another check in the same amount. I recently talked with another attorney who was refunding the same fee overpayment for the fourth time!  I personally have mailed checks in only to have them reissued.  Once, I took the check directly to the Atlanta office by hand (I happened to be in in Atlanta at the time) and was still issued a replacement check.

On June 10, 2017, Social Security strengthened the way it protects your privacy as my Social Security users.  They added a new identification method in addition to the first layer of security, which is a username and password. Adding security measures to safeguard your information — but making them easy to use — is their stated goal.

When you sign into your personal my Social Securityaccount at with your username and password, SSA now asks you to add your email address or a text-enabled cell phone number.

Each time you sign in to your account, you complete two steps:

  • Step 1: Enter your username and password.
  • Step 2: Enter your security code we send by text message or email, depending on the choice (cell phone provider text message and data rates may apply).

In addition to these security enhancements, SSA also upgraded the look and feel of my Social Security to create an enhanced customer experience. The my Social Security portal now automatically adjusts to the size of the screen and for the kind of device you are using – such as a tablet, smart phone, or computer. No matter what type of device you choose, you will have full, easy-to-use access to your personal my Social Security account.

When babies get Social Security numbers, SSA gets data on baby names. SSA recently released its 2016 information on baby names. The agency’s data set is drawn from applications for Social Security numbers and as such covers nearly all the children born in the United States. The top ten boy’s names were Noah, Liam, William, Mason, James, Benjamin, Jacob, Michael, Elijah, and Ethan. The top ten girl’s names were Emma, Olivia, Ava, Sophia, Isabella, Mia, Charlotte, Abigail, Emily, and Harper.


The girl’s name that most increased in popularity between 2015 and 2016 was Kehlani, which went from number 3359 to number 872. Singer Kehlani Parrish may have contributed to the name’s rise. The fastest growing boy’s name was Kylo, which was the 3269th most popular name in 2015 and rocketed to 901st in 2016. The change was probably related to the 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which includes a character named Kylo Ren.


The agency’s Office of the Chief Actuary packages baby name data into a fascinating website: https:// It is possible to view top baby names by state, track the popularity of a name over time, or see popular names for every birth year dating back to 1880. The press release announcing 2016 data noted that the names Donald and Hillary did not experience significant changes in popularity, either positive or negative, despite the frequency in which they came up in conversation during the 2016 Presidential election.

SSA Ranks Number Nine

July 12, 2017

Social Security ranks 9th on the list of best large federal agencies to work for in 2016, which is the middle of the pack. NASA ranks first. DHS ranks last. Social Security suffered the largest decline in rating between 2015 and 2016 of any large agency. In fact, it looks like Social Security has been in a fairly steady decline since 2010. While Senior Executive Service (SES) employees at Social Security are happier than employees generally, they are actually quite a bit less happy than SES employees at agencies generally. The agency’s leadership scores generally compare poorly with other agencies.

There are now 21 states that have established their own ABLE account programs, allowing some people with disabilities an opportunity to save money while maintaining elibility for SSI and Medicaid. All other states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation authorizing ABLE programs and are at various stages of progress towards allowing deposits.


ABLE stands for “Achieving a Better Life Experience.” The ABLE Act became law in December 2014. It allows states to create savings plans called “529A” accounts, which have tax advantages if contributions are used for specific purposes relating to disability expenses. A person with a disability can save up to $100,000 in an ABLE account before it affects their eligibility for SSI. Balances over that level suspend SSI cash payments, but individuals may still be eligible for Medicaid. ABLE accounts are only available to people whose disability onset occurred before age 26.


Ohio opened the first ABLE account program in June 2016. The states that followed created programs that vary considerably in their design. Some programs, like Florida’s are only open to state residents, while others are available to all eligible individuals. Like the “529” tax-advantaged college savings plans on which they were based, ABLE accounts have a variety of account fees, investment options, maximum allowable balances, consequences for state taxes, and other policies.


The National Disability Institute manages an ABLE National Resource Center with data, archieved webinars, comparison tools, and other information about the ABLE Act and states’ ABLE plans (http:// Information from that site and the documents of individual plans may help people considering ABLE accounts find the best plan for them. People with disabilities and their families may also wish to consider the relative merits of ABLE accounts and special needs trusts, and whether they would like to have both savings vehicles.


The states that currently offer ABLE programs are Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.

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