Social Security needs to take corrective action to reduce overpayments

An overpayment is messy.  It results when either the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) makes a mistake or when a claimant fails to notify the SSA about income or resources.  Either way it is messy.   The SSA then takes action to recover the over payment.  Usually they wait too long and by the time the SSA requests it, they are claiming that the claimant owes thousands of dollars.  Usually claimants do not have the money to pay it back and attorneys are reluctant to take a case because there is not a way for the claimant to pay the overpayment, much less an attorney.

Certainly not all overpayments are the SSA’s fault and it does take time to track them down.  Nevertheless, the longer the wait, the more it costs the claimant and in the end, the American tax payer.

The Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) for the Social Security Administration recently released a report, Concurrent Beneficiaries Improperly Receiving Payments in Excess of Federal Limits.  (Concurrent beneficiaries are those who are eligible for both SSI and Disability Insurance benefits.)  The OIG reviewed the records of 14,800 concurrent beneficiaries.  Out of that group, they found:

  • 246 concurrent beneficiaries received combined payments in excess of Federal limits for undetermined reasons;
  • 2,349 concurrent beneficiaries received combined payments in
    excess of Federal limits because of system-related payment
    computation errors;
  • 152 additional concurrent beneficiaries received combined payments in
    excess of Federal limits because of system-related payment
    computation errors that had been previously reported to the SSA in a prior audit .  In 2011, SSA reported it had taken corrective action to resolve these errors. However, payment errors on these records persisted.

The good news is that the problem numbers seem small when considering that the OIG reviewed the records of 14,800 people.  The bad news is that even though the numbers are small, they add up.  The OIG estimates these errors resulted in approximately $3.4 million in improper SSI payments. If the Agency does not correct these errors, they estimate it will issue approximately $2 million in additional excessive SSI payments to these beneficiaries over the next 12 months.

Posted in Health, Overpayments, Social security | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Quoted today in an article in the Wall Street Journal about disability judges facing more scrutiny

It is no secret among Social Security Disability attorneys that cases are getting tougher to win.  Today an article in the Wall Street Journal confirmed this.  The article, “Government Pulls in Reins on Disability Judges,” discusses how the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) is clamping down on judges by rewriting their job descriptions.  The job descriptions will no longer indicate that they have “complete individual independence,” and will also indicate that they are subject to the “supervision and management” of other agency officials.  The reasons for the changes, according to the article, is that the SSA is trying to rein in on problems such as fraud in the disability adjudication program, noting that there have been some criminal investigations with a few judges.   Another reason for the changes is that they claim they are  trying to promote consistency in adjudication

The article notes that the judges were already facing tightening scrutiny due to prior articles in the Wall Street Journal critical of the disability program.  In response to the scrutiny, they had already been changing their behavior.

In 2010, for example, judges awarded benefits in 67% of their 585,855 decisions, according to federal data.  By 2013, the award rate fell to 56%.  The allowance rate right now is probably at a 40-year historic low, Social Security Administration Deputy Commissioner Glenn Sklar said at a congressional hearing in November.

Thus, the judges somehow felt that in response to scrutiny they had to become tougher.  All attorneys have felt these changes.  I am quoted in the last paragraph of the article.  I mention that I now scrutinize the cases I take more carefully.  If I do not feel I can win it, I will not take it.

Posted in ODAR, Social Security disability hearings | Tagged | Leave a comment

How to dress to see a Social Security Disability attorney and how to dress for a hearing

I sometimes will read the terms that people are searching for when they reach my blog so that I know what topics I should address in future posts. One of the most recent searches that was done was on how to dress to see a Social Security Disability attorney. I have never given any thought as to whether someone is dressing up or down to see me. If you do have that question, my advice would be to wear something comfortable. When I am meeting someone, I am most interested in hearing about why they cannot work. I am not interested in what they are wearing. I would say that comfort is most important. As a potential client, as you are going to be sitting, perhaps for an hour or two while we talk. You should be comfortable.

It is not much different when you go to your hearing in front of a judge at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (“ODAR”). When my clients ask me what to wear, I tell them to dress comfortably. It is not a fashion show. You do not need to be there in a suit or tie. However, I also think it is important to be respectful. You will be in front of an administrative law judge. Do not wear jeans with holes in them, low-cut shirts, or baseball hats. You should be mindful that you are in a government office and in front of someone who will be making a decision about your case. Be comfortable as you will be for an hour or two, but when deciding what to wear, give some thought as to where you will be.

Posted in Social Security disability hearings | Tagged | Leave a comment