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SSA NEWS

June 13, 2024

PLEASE NOTE: No SSA COLA Increase Until January 2025

SSA has been receiving thousands of calls regarding a rumored $600 Social Security payment increase. This rumor is false. There will be no Social Security COLA (Cost-of-Living Adjustment) until January 2025.

SSA Commissioner O'Malley tweeted yesterday:

SSA 800 # was slammed on June 3. Over 463,000 calls -- 140k more calls than a few days earlier. Why? In part because of a bogus news story about a $600 payment increase. This is FALSE: No COLA until January 2025. Big thanks to all SSA staff who helped customers with this rumor.

June 11, 2024

Social Security Reduces Automatic Overpayment Recovery Rate to 10 Percent

The Social Security Administration has announced that it will lower the default overpayment withholding rate for Social Security beneficiaries from 100% to 10% (or $10, whichever is greater), considerably lessening financial hardship for victims of overpayments.

According to SSA, there “will be a short transition period where people will continue to experience the older policy.  People placed in 100 percent withholding during this transition period should call Social Security's National 800 Number at 1-800-772-1213 to lower their withholding rate.”

Read more from SSA.

June 6, 2024

SSA Stops CDRs For The Remainder Of The Fiscal Year

SSA's Emergency Message EM-24021 states:

With the enactment of our full-year appropriation for this fiscal year, we are lowering our Full Medical CDR target from 575,000 to 375,000.

This reduction will allow DDSs to focus on processing Initial Disability Claims and Reconsideration cases. The field offices will not send additional Full Medical CDRs to the DDS for the remainder of FY 2024.

Read the full message from SSA.

May 28, 2024

SSA Acknowledges Issues with False Mailing Dates on Outgoing Correspondence

SSA has at last acknowledged issues with the mostly fabricated dates on its outgoing mail, updating their HALLEX manual for hearings and appeals. Notices sent out from SSA's central operation will now be presumed to have been sent out three days later than the date they show, in addition to the five days already given for the receipt of mail.

Most SSA correspondence is printed and mailed from a central operation that serves the whole agency, and the date printed and mailed is actually several days later than the date the mail bears.

Consequently, for SSA decisions whose appeal deadlines are based on a date that is actually prior to the date the decision was mailed, claimants lose out on time to file their appeals.

The new changes do not seem to have been reflected in the POMS manual that serves the entire SSA agency.

April 18, 2024

SSA Final Rule Changes Past Relevant Work from 15 Years to 5 Years

Today, SSA published its final rule changing the definition of past relevant work (PRW) from 15 years to 5 years and will no longer consider work that lasted fewer than 30 calendar days as PRW.  This change will help innumerable social security disability claimants establish their eligibility to receive benefits since they will no longer be deemed capable of work they haven't done in over 10 years.

The rule will take effect on June 8, 2024.

Read the full text of the SSA rule in the Federal Register.

April 16, 2024

AARP Story Highlights Extended SSA Wait Times

AARP has published a story highlighting how SSA's failure to address ever-increasing administrative delays and hold times harms claimants and deeply impacts representatives' ability to serve their clients.

SSA's customer service crisis has led to critical, system-wide delays. Callers to SSA's national help line stay on hold an average of almost 36 minutes to receive answers to basic questions. While the average waiting period for an initial SSA disability benefit decision was 110-120 days in the late 2010s, the average wait time was 228 (over seven months) as of December 2023. The wait time for a reconsideration decision from SSA is another seven months, and if reconsideration is denied, claimants wait another 15 months on average for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Federal data shows that about 10,000 people die each year while their SSA disability applications are working their way through the system.

The extraordinary and devastating delays, which attorneys say are the worst they have seen in their years of practice, are part of a broader customer service crisis instigated by the pandemic, when SSA offices remained closed to most in-person services for over two years and saw a 25-year low in the number of agency staff.  

Read the article from AARP

April 1, 2024

SSA Commissioner O'Malley Outlines Modernization Initiatives

SSA Commissioner O'Malley has replied to three priorities outlined by NOSSCR:

1.         Permanent acceptance of electronic signatures;

2.         Elimination of unnecessary signatures; and

3.         Elimination or reduction of attestation delays.

Commissioner O'Malley says he is "committed to transitioning SSA to e-signatures where possible and eliminating wet signatures where they are not needed."

SSA is launching a feature that will allow the agency to request information via email with the option to respond to such requests electronically. This release will include an electronic SSA-827 (Authorization to Disclose Information to SSA) and SSA-821 (Work Activity Report - Employee) with e-signature option.

With respect to eliminating unnecessary signatures, Commissioner O'Malley says SSA is "reviewing 55 forms and pursuing removal of the signature requirement based on programmatic, fraud, operational, program integrity, and legal considerations."

Such changes could save months of processing time.

Through these and other streamlining initiatives, SSA is working with the community of appointed representatives to accelerate the claims process, reduce costs, improve customer service, and save SSA staff time. 

March 28, 2024

SSA Publishes Final Rule Excluding Food from SSI ISM Calculations

SSA has published its final rule omitting food from its in-kind support and maintenance calculations. This change will remove a substantial hurdle for SSI recipients who have long had their benefits unduly reduced due to informal food assistance they receive from their communities.

Effective September 30, 2024, SSA will no longer consider food expenses in ISM calculations and will consider only shelter expenses including "room, rent, mortgage payments, real property taxes, heating fuel, gas, electricity, water, sewerage, and garbage collection services.” SSA will still ask one question about food, but only to determine whether to use the Value of One-Third Reduction (VTR) rule or the Presumed Maximum Value (PMV) rule.

This final rule is an important step in lessening the many barriers that recipients of SSI—who have low income and resources by definition—disproportionately face in accessing benefits.

March 18, 2024

SSAB Study Shows Significant Increase in Timeframe for Effectuation Of SSA Disability Benefits

The Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB) has issued a study on the increasing timeframe for disability benefit (and especially SSI disability benefit) effectuation over the past decade. Effectuation—or the steps between a favorable disability decision and the payment of benefits—happens once a claimant has already undergone the typically extensive waiting period between their application for benefits and their eventual favorable decision.

Effectuation is a complicated process which deeply impacts claimants and their families by affecting how long they must wait to receive much-needed resources and whose many varied steps, when handled inaccurately by SSA, can lead to overpayments or underpayments that are onerous to resolve and financially detrimental to the awardee. But despite its complexities and implications for claimants who have already proven that they urgently need benefits, effectuation is rarely considered and researched in the context of Social Security disability benefits or for government programs more broadly.

The data from SSAB shows that the time SSA takes to effectuate a disability award has increased over the past decade. While most DIB awards (benefits paid to insured workers who have become disabled) still effectuated within a relatively short time of the decision, the median effectuation period for SSI awards (benefits paid to people who meet SSA's strict income and resource limits and meet the statutory definition of disability or blindness) swelled from 20 days in 2014 to 77 days in early 2023.

SSAB has issued several recommendations aimed at improving the timeliness and efficiency of SSA benefit effectuation and has also recommended that Congress require SSA to pay interest on past-due benefits when effectuation is delayed.

March 16, 2024

SSA Recently Released Its Water 2023 Waterfall Chart

Each year, the Social Security Administration releases statistics about the disability and SSI programs in an easy-to-understand format, called the “waterfall” chart. The waterfall chart shows the percentage of claims approved and denied at the various levels of review.

The chart shows what claimants can expect, statistically, for their claim for Social Security disability benefits. 

March 8, 2024

SSA Overpayment Policy Update

SSA has updated its policy so that claimants can now request a change in the recovery rate of an overpayment if they are unable to repay the amount within 60 months (it was previously 36 months). 

Read the Dear Colleague letter from SSA.

March 1, 2024

SSA Issues New Emergency Message for Fault Determination in Overpayment Waivers

As a result of a settlement agreement, SSA must now follow the guidance of Emergency Message (EM-24005) and "consider any circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic that an overpaid individual alleges prevented the individual from reporting changes” that led to overpayment when determining if the individual is at fault.

An overpayment can be waived if the individual is without fault and if recovery of the overpayment "would either defeat the purpose of the act or be against equity and good conscience.”

Read more from NOSSCR

October 12, 2023

Social Security Beneficiaries Will See Smaller COLA Increase in 2024

"Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 71 million Americans will increase 3.2 percent in 2024, the Social Security Administration announced today. On average, Social Security retirement benefits will increase by more than $50 per month starting in January."

Ready the full press release from SSA

 

September 25, 2023

Medicaid Expansion to Launch December 1 in North Carolina

Eligible individuals can enroll in North Carolina's Medicaid expansion program, NC Health Works, starting December 1, 2023. 

Read more about plans and eligibility from North Carolina Justice Center.

 

August 25, 2023

SSA No Long Accepting Faxed Applications

The Social Security Administration has announced that it is no longer accepting faxed applications.
More information on valid applications may be found here.

 

August 14, 2023

Social Security Administration Expedites Decisions for People with Severe Disabilities

"Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, today announced 12 new Compassionate Allowances conditions: 1p36 Deletion Syndrome, Anaplastic Ependymoma, Calciphylaxis, Cholangiocarcinoma, FOXG1 Syndrome, Leber Congenital Amaurosis, Metastatic Endometrial Adenocarcinoma, Paraneoplastic Cerebellar Degeneration, Pineoblastoma – Childhood, Primary Omental Cancer, Sarcomatoid Carcinoma of the Lung – Stages II-IV, and Trisomy 9.

The Compassionate Allowances program quickly identifies claims where the applicant's medical condition or disease clearly meets Social Security's statutory standard for disability. Due to the severe nature of many of these conditions, these claims are often allowed based on medical confirmation of the diagnosis alone. To date, nearly 900,000 people with severe disabilities have been approved through this accelerated, policy-compliant disability process, which now includes a total of 278 conditions.

'The Social Security Administration remains committed to reducing barriers and ensuring people who are eligible for benefits receive them,” said Acting Commissioner Kijakazi. “Our Compassionate Allowances program allows us to reinforce that commitment by expediting the disability application process for people with the most severe disabilities.'

When a person applies for disability benefits, Social Security must obtain medical records in order to make an accurate determination. The agency incorporates leading technology to identify potential Compassionate Allowances cases and make quick decisions. Social Security's Health IT brings the speed and efficiency of electronic medical records to the disability determination process. With electronic records transmission, Social Security can quickly obtain a claimant's medical information, review it, and make a faster determination.

For more information about the program, including a list of all Compassionate Allowances conditions, please visit www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances.

To learn more about Social Security's Health IT program, please visit www.ssa.gov/hit.

People may apply online for disability benefits by visiting www.ssa.gov.

To create a my Social Security account, please visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount."

Read the full press release from SSA.

 

August 10, 2023

From NOSSCR: SSA Announces First Phase of Online SSI Applications

"...SSA is embarking on a multi-year effort to simplify the SSI application process, wherein applicants could apply online without the need to visit a field office. SSA will also prepopulate some information from its records, reducing the burden on claimants. The online application will be 'iSSI' and it will be part of the 'iClaim' system already used for Title II SSDI applications.

NOSSCR is supportive of SSA's efforts to streamline the process for our members' most vulnerable claimants, ensuring access to life-saving benefits and reducing administrative time and costs."

 

August 3, 2023

NOSSCR Endorses President Biden's Intent to Nominate Martin O'Malley as SSA Commissioner

"NOSSCR is pleased with the news of President Biden's intent to nominate former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to serve as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

The disability claims and appeals process must utilize all the modern tools available to ensure timely, accurate, and efficient decisions. With a track record of data-based decision-making, Governor O'Malley is an ideal nominee to implement solutions reforming the agency's many antiquated processes and systems. Relying on current job information in adjudicating cases, safeguarding claimant data, and maximizing the use of electronic medical records are of the utmost importance in leading the Social Security Administration forward.
 
Governor O'Malley's lifetime of public service makes NOSSCR optimistic that he will lead the agency into the modern era, fully reopen field offices, enhance customer service, and reduce unnecessary and costly delays for claimants while supporting a cost-of-living based increase in the attorney fee cap so that our members can continue their vital work. NOSSCR looks forward to working with Governor O'Malley on these and other issues important to our membership and the claimants they serve."

The National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) is the largest community of advocates for Social Security claimants in the nation. NOSSCR and its members advocate for improvements in Social Security disability programs and work to ensure fair representation for all claimants. To learn more, visit https://nosscr.org."

Read NOSSCR's press release regarding the nomination here.

 

10/14/2022

Social Security Benefits Will Increase 8.7 Percent for 2023

SSA has announced that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase 8.7 percent in 2023--a response to rising inflation. This cost-of-living adjustment is the largest in over forty years.

Read more details about the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) from SSA.

 

10/15/2021

Social Security Benefits to Increase 5.9 Percent for 2022 

SSA has announced that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 5.9 percent in 2022. This cost-of-living adjustment is the largest in forty years. Increased payments to about eight million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2021. 

For details, read SSA's new Fact Sheet for 2022.

 

9/3/2021

SSI Restoration Act

Congress is currently considering a bill that would strengthen the SSI program. The SSI Restoration Act would make greatly needed updates to SSI, including but not limited to:

  • Increasing the SSI benefit rate to at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Level and adjusting it annually to keep pace with inflation.
  • Eliminating “in-kind support and maintenance” (ISM) as a type of countable income
  • Increasing and inflation-index resource limits for the first time since 1989
  • Updating the earned and general income disregards, which have not been adjusted since 1974, and
  • Eliminating installment payment requirements and extending the time SSI recipients have to spend down retroactive benefits.

We at McGill & Noble think that these updates to the SSI program, which will help millions of seniors and disabled Americans, are long overdue.  If you agree, please reach out to your elected officials and ask them to include the SSI Restoration Act in the upcoming recovery legislation.    Call the  Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative and senators OR click here to find the links to your representatives' websites.  You can also click here to send a letter drafted by the National Organization of Social Security Representatives.  

 

8/27/2021

Biden Signs Bill Providing Service Dogs for Veterans

On Wednesday, President Biden signed a pilot program into law that will provide service dogs to veterans struggling with PTSD.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members for Veterans Therapy Act (PAWS) requires the VA to implement a five-year program to provide service dogs and training to veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

Find details of the bill from Congress.

 

8/13/2021

Social Security Won't Penalize Disabled People For Saving Stimulus Checks

In a reversal, Supplemental Security Income recipients won't lose benefits even if coronavirus relief payments are still in their bank accounts.

Information from SSA

Read the full article from HuffPost.

 

4/30/20 

Action Needed for People Receiving SSI with Dependents and Who Do Not File
Tax Returns to Receive $500 Per Child Payment.

SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul announced on Friday that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes and have qualifying children under age 17 should immediately go to the IRS web page to provide their information. SSI recipients who have dependent children need to act by Tuesday, May 5 in order to receive an additional $500 payment per eligible dependent.

If they do not provide additional information to the IRS by the May 5 deadline, qualifying SSI recipients will need to file a tax year 2020 tax return to obtain the additional $500 per eligible child.

SSI recipients with qualifying children should update their information with the IRS here.

 

4/29/20

Hearing Offices Continue to Suspend In-Person Hearings

On 4/28/20, SSA has announced that, due to COVID-19 related concerns, hearing offices in North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, George Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennesee will continue to suspend in-person hearings.  Hearing office will hold telephonic hearings only through the month of August.   Claimants who do not agree to telephone hearings may elect to postpone their hearings until in-person hearings resume.  

 

4/28/20 

SSA Offices Remain Closed to Public

SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul announced on Friday that, for the time being, SSA offices will remain closed to the public for face-to-face service, and their employees will continue to work remotely. SSA will continue to provide critical services, and recipients of Social Security benefits will continue to receive their monthly benefit amount if they use Direct Deposit. SSA will post updates on its website at www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus

 

4/15/20 

UPDATE:  COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments for Supplemental Security Income Recipients

Yesterday, SSA announced that SSI recipients with no qualifying children do not need to take any action in order to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. The payments will be automatic.
SSI recipients who have qualifying children under age 17, however, should go to the IRS Website to provide their information in order to receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment. If SSI beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, they will have to wait until later to receive their $500 per qualifying child.

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