Articles Posted in Social Security

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The Social Security Administration issued a final program uniformity rule that, among other things, will now require that the claimant inform Social Security or submit all relevant medical evidence to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review at least five (5) business days prior to the administrative law hearing for Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income cases. The new rule also extends the notice that Social Security is required to give claimants for their hearing date from twenty (20) days to seventy five (75) days prior to the hearing. This rule became effective on January 16, 2017 and will be enforced starting May 1, 2017.

The rule was revised to create nationally uniform hearing and Appeals Council procedures and improve accuracy and efficiency in the administrative review process. Social Security anticipates that this new rule will positively impact their ability to manage workloads and lead to better public service. The requirement to notify or submit all evidence five (5) business days prior to the hearing has been in effect in the Boston region since 2006.

The rule on its face makes sense. You give claimants more advanced notice of their hearing and they should be able to have all the evidence identified or submitted to the Administrative Law Judge within the timeframe of the rule. This will allow the Administrative Law Judge the opportunity to make a decision faster and effectively help work through the backlog of people waiting for hearings. As it currently stands, most people have to wait roughly 15-20 months from the date they request a hearing before actually getting a hearing date. But will it be that easy to comply with the rule and will this rule help reduce the backlog and create more efficiency?

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Since 1975, the Social Security Administration has based any Social Security general benefit increases on whether there has been an increase in the overall cost of living. These general benefit increases are called a Cost-Of-Living Adjustment, also referred to as COLA. Social Security measures what that cost of living increase is by the Consumer Price Index. The Consumer Price Index is released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor and measures the average change over time in the price paid by urban households for a set of consumer goods and services. This seems simple enough; when we see enough of an increase in the cost of goods and services, Social Security Disability beneficiaries should see an increase in their benefits to help offset that increase, right? Wrong.

On October 18, 2016, Social Security announced that there will only be a 0.3% Cost-Of-Living adjustment.  Social Security beneficiaries will not see that increase in their checks until January 2017. More than 65 million Americans receive some type of Social Security benefit.  This is a significant percentage of our population that either rely on Social Security benefits for their entire income or to supplement their income. With an aging Baby Boomer generation, the number of Americans on Social Security Retirement is set to increase as the years go by.

This nominal cost of living increase should come as no surprise. Over the last 20 years, the cost of living increase has been over 2% only 4 times. You have to go all the way back to 1981 to find the last time the increase was greater than 10%. To put that in perspective, that is the same year the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark was released and the number 1 single on the Billboard Year-End Chart was “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes. It is fair to say much has changed since Social Security beneficiaries saw a meaningful increase in their Social Security benefits.