Friday, July 30, 2010

Announcement of a New Coalition to Save Social Security is a group of more than 50 organizations that have banded together to decry benefit cuts to Social Security. Though their component organizations are diffuse in ideology and goals, they have assembled a list of principles that includes the idea that Social Security does not affect the deficit and should not be reduced to lower the deficit, that it should not contain a means test, that benefits should not be reduced, and that age requirements should not be increased.

They also appear to make some more politically charged suggestions that those who are disadvantaged should be given more, and that privatization should not occur. Though there are individuals who may disagree with the ideals espoused by some of the member organizations, and perhaps may even disagree with some of the tenets included in their guiding principles, it is great to see that there appears to be a push by some clout-bearing (read -monied) organizations to address this important issue, and hopefully help hold our Senate and Congress accountable to a greater degree than we as individuals can.

This site contains a number of Social Security myths and the explanations behind their debunking. It is a worthwhile read, and though was clearly written from a politically motivated position, it contains information worth exploring further.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How far back can I look? Back Pay in SSI vs. RSDI Cases (Click Image to Increase Size)

For applicants and a representatives, it is wise to consider the amount of back benefits that a beneficiary may obtain based on the date of application as well as the alleged onset date. It is also vital to be aware of when a claimant's insured status runs, since amendment of the alleged onset date frequently occurs at the hearing level. Just the difference of one day can mean significant differences in insurance available to the claimant, not to mention their monthly benefit payment.

This image (c) Thomas C. O'Brien

Gallup: 76% of 18-34 Year Olds Believe there will be no Social Security for them.

In yet another article that tells the same story about Social Security, Gallup, a well respected polling agency released poll results demonstrating the most pessimistic view of Social Security to date. With almost quiet resignation, a generation of workers who have never known a paycheck without substantial deductions for Social Security, asserts their belief that the return on their investment will be zero. In a climate of increased taxes, fewer jobs, and vanishing benefits, the need for serious re-examination of our processes and priorities has never been greater.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Retroactive Medicaid in Georgia - An incentive to continue treatment

SSI and Medicaid Applicants, Do your providers know that they can get compensated for the care provided even prior to your Medicaid application? Section 2053 of the Georgia Medicaid Manual provides that providers may seek compensation retroactively for care provided in the three months prior to the month of application for ABD Medicaid, Family Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Additionally, payment may be obtained for time periods during which the case was in adjudication (intervening months). Retroactive pre-certification is required in most cases, but these cases can get paid. This is an incentive for physicians and facilities to continue the provision of care for their sickest patients, even during interrupted coverage. It is also a huge benefit for patients whose cases before Social Security are directly impacted by the quality and substance of their medical records.

Feiler & Associates can assist with your Social Security claim, and educate your physician on what they can do to seek payment once you qualify. We obtain state compensation of millions of dollars a year for medical providers in this exact situation, improving the financial health of the provider, while securing payment for a patient's treatment.

Americans: No Social Security Cut to Reduce Deficit

...[A] promise made is a debt unpaid... — Robert W. Service

An advocacy group by the name of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation is about to release the results of a national poll that contains some interesting information. The results, to be shared on July 15 at 1:00 pm at the U.S. Capitol Building, indicate that:
  • Americans interviewed do not believe Social Security to be a major cause of the deficit, and as such should remain untouched as Congress addresses the shortfall.

  • The results further state that Americans do not believe that Social Security is a drain on the economy, and that the conditions in which we currently find ourselves economically highlight a need for such a program.
  • Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, a vast majority of Americans asserted that Social Security belongs to its contributors and their beneficiaries, and that it is a promise made to all generations which should not be broken.
While none of these ideals should come as a shock, the message is clear. Most Americans, even those who would perhaps oppose the introduction of a similar program in today's political and economic climate, agree that fairness would dictate that they have access to government provided insurance that they were forced to purchase. Common fairness right? All the more reason for voters to demand streamlining, accountability, and transparency from those individuals that they elected to help steer this great country, so that promised benefits may be delivered and delivered properly.

The Five-Step Social Security Disability Process

Social Security uses a five step analysis process when evaluating whether or not an individual's medical condition will establish eligibility for disability benefits. With one exception, noted below, each step represents a "gateway" that must be passed in order to proceed.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Forward (but slow) motion on replacing the DOT...

The link below is a solicitation dated July 8, 2010 for what appears to be the first concrete effort to develop a replacement for the aging Dictionary of Occupational Titles DOT, and its companion volumes, which have not been updated since 1991. This paper further notes the failures of O*NET with regard to its application to disability adjudication. Responses are due in August.

This has long been needed, especially with regard to jobs of a technical nature. Imagine the computer, calculator, or communications devices that you had in 1991 as compared to today. Now imagine that the success of your disability case depends on job criteria that were written and developed during that same era. If your substantial gainful activity requires (or required) much in the way of technical expertise, this is a very scary thought indeed!

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is developing a new occupational information system (OIS) tailored specifically for the agency’s disability programs and adjudicative needs. The new OIS will provide the agency with a long-term replacement for the occupational information that it currently obtains from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and other companion volumes such as the Selected Characteristics of Occupations (SCO) and the Revised Handbook for Analyzing Jobs (RHAJ). The OIS Development Project addresses a critical need within the agency and it is anticipated that the new OIS will improve the timeliness and quality of the agency’s disability determination process. For this reason, the OIS Development Project is included in the agency’s strategic plan.
The purpose of this contract is to obtain the services of an expert in the field of industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology or an equivalent field to develop a prototype instrument which SSA can use to conduct analyses of work which exists in the national economy. I/O psychology consists of the scientific application or extension of psychological facts and principles to the problems concerning human beings operating within the context of business and industry

An interesting comparison with a frustrating result...

I recently saw that a foundering yet wildly popular and informative commercial social bookmarking website owned by a large publishing house ( owned by Conde Nast) was seeking support from its many users in order to continue as an ongoing interest. Though many derided this action as nothing more than a corporation trying to squeeze dollars from their fans, I think the response from the community stands for something else. As a result of a self-effacing and honest appeal, thousands of users rallied to the aid of the site, and some of the pressure is gone, at least for now (see The ultimate lesson? People will back an idea that should not need support if the communications are honest, and the product is of high quality.

I would draw a parallel between the situation faced by and that faced by Social Security. Social Security is a high quality idea, whose future is quite uncertain. Though reasonable minds disagree on when a benefits design change will occur, all projections state that within the first half of this century, serious changes must be made to allow Social Security to continue. Many serious bipartisan efforts are beginning to move the retirement age to 70 for those workers born in the 1960s and beyond.

As everyone knows, the backer of Social Security is the U.S. Government. A Pew Research Center survey whose results were released in April of 2010 demonstrated that a staggering 78% of Americans don't trust the federal government. Furthermore, retirement ages have already being extended, and those who are slated to receive benefits face ever increasing delays in receiving back benefits, all while those awaiting hearings face delays of a year or more before their cases may be heard. All of these factors combine to form a frustrating confluence of circumstances that do not have a positive outcome, unless the culture of the Social Security Administration, and the U.S. Government at large can change quickly, establish accountability, and ensure that younger Americans may be guaranteed that their non-optional contributions to this program will accrue not only to the benefit of others but to their benefit as well.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Brave New Frontier

Though not new to writing, this is my first foray into the world of legal blogging. The purpose of this blog is to discuss current issues in Social Security and Disability Advocacy, and to serve as a resource for those individuals who may have the need to apply for benefits thereunder. My name is Thomas O'Brien and I am a disability attorney.