Beware Medicare Advantage!
SSA Relying Upon Outdated Job Information Results in Disability Claims Being Incorrectly Denied
One part of the process the Social Security Administration uses to decide if a person meets the rules to qualify for disability benefits is to determine the applicant's ability to work. This can mean that the applicant is physically and/or mentally capable to do work that exists "within the national economy" (whether or not the application has had any training, education, or experience in that type of work).
In making a decision about whether one can work, the judge relies upon a "vocational expert" to describe the physical and mental requirements of jobs that exist nationally (not just in the region the claimant lives). The data a vocational expert has traditionally relied upon is a text developed by the Department of Labor called the "Dictionary of Occupational Titles" (DOT), which was most recently updated in 1977. As the Washington Post reports: The current system is leading thousands of disability claims per year to be denied that would otherwise have a good chance of approval, data suggests.” This outdated data does not take into account that many of the jobs listed in the DOT have now become obsolete due to advances in technology, automation, and offshoring. The SSA relying upon information provided by vocational experts often result in claims being improperly denied.
It is important for representative to understand how the limited vocational information impacts their client's claim and to challenge SSA's determinations in their client's best interest.
WASHINGTON POST: "Social Security offices critical to disability benefits hit breaking point"
The Washington Post cites state-based Social Security offices have seen an increase in applications since the beginning of the pandemic -- at the same time that offices experienced shut-downs, forcing higher work loads on disability examiners who have been without resources needed to process claims effectively.
"A former examiner in Florida, explaining why he quit in September after 12 years, described the job this way: 'It was all about the numbers. It was the sheer amount of work. We didn’t care if you were denied or approved, we just wanted the cases out.'"
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and colleagues have introduced a bill into the Senate entitled the “Social Security Expansion Act” (S.4365). This bill’s goal is to ensure funding and expansion of benefits for retirees and disabled persons. The proposed bill would:
• Fully fund and expand benefits for the next 75 years for retirees and disabled.
• Fully fund the programs by raising the current cap on how much income is taxed. Current cap is $147,000/year. The bill would change that so if a person earns over $250,000, all income would be taxed, including capital gains.
• Social Security benefits would be increased by $2,400 a year and the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) would be changed to the elderly Consumer Price Index (CPI), which would more accurately reflect the cost of living of seniors.
It is estimated that 50% of senior citizens rely solely on Social Security benefits as their primary source of income. As a result many seniors live below the poverty line. Social Security benefits have helped to lift nearly 22million Americans above the poverty line, nearly 9% of those being senior citizens. In 2020 the average Social Security Disability Insurance Benefit was $1,454.00 and $1,636.00 for retired workers, depending on the individual’s lifetime earnings.
(Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2021”, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/chartbooks/fast_facts/2021/fast_facts21; NOSSCR Forum, Vol 44, No. 6, June 2022; https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/4365/text).
Child Abuse Awareness Month
The Committee for Children is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for children’s social and emotional learning. As part of their child safety campaign, they have compiled a series of pamphlets that are a how-to guide for parents and guardians to have age appropriate conversations with their children about bodily autonomy and personal safety. This is a topic that both parents and children can find to be very uncomfortable to discuss, but these conversations can help families to recognize the signs of abuse and help the child feel empowered.
As their introductory guide states:
"Child sexual abuse happens—more than you think. But, research shows there’s something simple and powerful you can do right now that goes a long way to protect your child: talk with them. Informed children are less likely to be abused, and those who feel comfortable talking openly with a caring adult are more likely to disclose abuse if it happens" (Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1995). Victimization prevention programs: A national survey of children’s exposure and reactions. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19(2), 129–139. https://doi.org/10.1016/0145-2134(94)00111-7)
Download the "Hot Chocolate Talk" conversation guides here
What is "administrative burden"?
"Broadly, when we look at a lot of our social welfare programs, somewhere around 15 to 20 percent of people who are eligible for food stamps don’t receive food stamps. In large part, because of these bureaucratic obstacles. We know that this is a huge issue with unemployment insurance. There are some states where I see upwards to 20 to 30 percent of eligible populations not receiving access to basic health insurance. It has profound implications. One striking example, actually, was in Tennessee. They kicked nearly 200,000 children off of the Medicaid program simply because people had made paperwork errors. Two hundred thousand children lost access to health insurance because they’d made paperwork errors."
US Department of Education to Automatically Excuse Student Loan Debt for Persons Receiving Social Security Disability
"The program is meant to wipe out the student loan debt of Americans who can no longer work due to a significant disability. But, until now, borrowers who qualified for the program had to apply for the relief. Now, relief will become automatic for those who are identified through a data match with the Social Security Administration."
"The program is meant to wipe out the student loan debt of Americans who can no longer work due to a significant disability. But, until now, borrowers who qualified for the program had to apply for the relief. Now, relief will become automatic for those who are identified through a data match with the Social Security Administration. "