Articles Posted in Social Security Administration (SSA)

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Staffers at the Social Security Administration gathered in Washington, D.C. this summer to protest a staffing and funding crisis at the agency.  Employees contend more Americans will be denied benefits due to decades of low funding by Congress.  Field office employees from across the country have sounded the alarm to Congress.

Over the last decade Social Security beneficiaries have increased by 25% while SSA’s operating budgets have decreased by 17% and hiring is down by 50 %.  By the end of Fiscal Year 2022, staffing levels reached a 25 year low.  Employee surveys indicate that SSA is the “worst agency” to work for in the federal government.  Workers claim “toxic levels of stress” and “impossible workloads.”

Low staffing results in backlogs of claims, frustrated claimants, overworked employees, long lines at field offices, and unreasonable delays in phone service.  Under-funding has led to poor training of new employees.  SSA uses a self-taught training manual rather than one-on-one training with personal staff.  SSA spends less than a penny of every dollar on administrative costs.  Applicants for disability benefits face processing times of more than six months.  The agency’s toll free number has wait times in excess of thirty minutes.  Wait times at field offices for unscheduled appointments have been as long as three hours.

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Next year, Social Security disability beneficiaries may be able to earn a higher amount per month without it having an effect on their eligibility for benefits.  This and other changes could be coming to the Social Security Administration as early as 2023.

Experts predict that income thresholds (known as “substantial gainful activity” or “SGA”) for Social Security disability beneficiaries will increase in 2023. Currently, the SGA threshold is $1,350 for disabled individuals.   Social Security observers predict the threshold will increase in 2023 making it possible for beneficiaries to earn more and still remain on benefits.

In 2022, the Social Security Administration announced a record cost -of -living adjustment, resulting in more money for Social Security disability beneficiaries. That cost-of-living adjustment may actually increase even further in 2023. Experts suggest that the cost- of -living adjustment will reach 8. 6% in 2023.  This has been confirmed by officials at the Social Security Administration who say that the cost-of -living adjustment increase for next year will reflect the growing inflation in the country. If the 8.6% cost-of-living adjustment goes into effect next year, then it would be the highest such increase on record since 1981.

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For several years, media sources reported that the Social Security Administration could run out of funds and become insolvent in the next couple of decades.  Now, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have introduced a new bill that is aimed at preventing exactly that.

According to some estimates, the Social Security Administration will run out of funds by the year 2035.   Bernie Sanders, Independent -Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren -Democrat Massachusetts recently introduced a bill targeted at an increase in Social Security funding.

The bill aims at making the agency solvent by 2096, and also targets an increase in the amount of monthly benefits for beneficiaries.  According to the plan, which should be welcomed by all Social Security beneficiaries, benefits will increase by as much as $200 per month or $2,400 per year.  The cost of living in several American cities, including in Georgia, has skyrocketed over the past decade and Social Security benefits haven’t kept pace.

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There has been a steady drop in the number of people on Social Security disability benefits since 2014.  That drop has become even more significant since the pandemic.  A move away from manual labour towards more sedentary jobs means fewer workers suffer from the kind of physical injuries that might result in a disability.  Also, better access to healthcare as a result of the Affordable Care Act allows many people suffering a disability the medical treatment necessary to recover and to ultimately return to work.

However, the drop seems to have become even more significant since the pandemic.  As many as 80% of the people who died in the pandemic were above the age of 65.  The  pandemic also resulted in many people accelerating their plans for retirement.  That resulted in fewer people dependent on disability benefits.  However, the most compelling reason for the drop in beneficiaries could be that many applicants were simply unable to apply for the benefits as a result of closure of Social Security field offices across Georgia and the rest of the country.

Finally, approval rates of administrative law judges have dropped from 57% approval in 2009 to 49% approval in 2019.  The process of  monitoring the judges’  decisions has become  stricter which has meant a lowered approval rate.  Thus, the process for approval is harder and often requires hiring an attorney.

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Social Security Administration field offices across Georgia opened in April after a gap of more than 2 years.  If you are planning a visit to your nearest Social Security office, here is what you need to keep in mind.

Most Social Security offices are likely to be swamped in the first few weeks and months after the opening. The crush is likely to be even more severe in states like Georgia that have massive backlogs of Social Security claims. While most Social Security Administration activities were delayed as a result of the transition to online and phone services during the pandemic, the impact on claims filed under the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs has been especially severe.  The pipeline has been clogged and thousands of claims remain yet to be processed. That translates into large wait times at these offices.

Know that you will probably also have long wait times as you wait for appointments via phone.  Social Security Administration phone lines also have been clogged during the pandemic, and now that offices have opened, that problem is likely to become even worse, as thousands of potential beneficiaries call the agency’s hotline numbers. Applicants have been complaining about being placed on hold for several minutes with no contact with any officer.

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It’s finally confirmed. All field offices of the Social Security Administration, which have been closed for more than two years, will finally open on April 7.

Field offices of the Social Security Administration have been closed since March 17, 2020, after the first cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the US.  Since then, services have moved online, but online transactions have been far from smooth.  This has resulted in long wait times and delays in the processing of claims. The Social Security Administration has also offered the option of mail services during this time. However, for many, especially people in rural areas and those without access to technology and transportation, this transition has been a challenging one.  As a result, the number of claims that were filed during this time as well as the speed of processing, has dropped.

Now that it seems like the worst of the pandemic is behind us, the Social Security Administration is finally opening up its offices. You can now visit your local field office for help with your Social Security disability insurance payments, Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income benefits and other activities.  Make sure that you wear a mask to stay safe when you enter a field office.

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Even during the best of times, the Social Security Administration faced challenges in its processing timelines.  SSA has always had a backlog causing delays in the approval of claims and delivering of payments to beneficiaries. However, that situation has become markedly worse since the pandemic.

According to an investigation, backlogs have increased since the pandemic struck the United States. Agency offices had to be shut down as shelter -in -place restrictions were implemented, and work was curtailed. That meant that thousands of cases went into freeze mode as workers at the Social Security Administration tried to figure out how work could be done with restrictions in place.

In addition to this, applicants faced delays in obtaining the medical and other documentation required to support their claim. The success of any Social Security disability benefits claim depends heavily on the strength of the documentation that is submitted to support the claim. A typical claim will require vast amounts of medical documentation to support the disability and the person’s inability to work at a full – time job. Doctor summaries of the condition, results of X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and other diagnostic tests, lab results, and analyses of the impairments that make it difficult for the person to work – all of these are critically important pieces of evidence in a Social Security disability claim. During the pandemic, it became that much harder for applicants to obtain this evidence with medical offices shut down across Georgia.

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Navigating the complex labyrinth of health and disability programs that you may qualify for can be confusing. You may be eligible for more than one program that can help you pay for your medical needs and other expenses.

If you have suffered a disability that makes it difficult or impossible for you to go to work and earn a living, you may qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance program. If you qualify for disability benefits under this program, then you will receive a monthly check to meet your expenses. These benefits depend on the amount of taxes that you have previously paid into the Social Security system.

The Social Security Disability Insurance program, however, is completely different from the Supplemental Security Income program. This program provides benefits to people who are disabled and have a very limited income. In certain cases, individuals may qualify for benefits under both the Social Security Disability Insurance program as well as the Supplemental Security Income program. To understand what kind of benefits you should apply for, talk to a disability attorney.

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The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the financial health of the Social Security Administration may not be as bad as previously feared.

The Social Security Administration Chief Actuary recently testified at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, that the outlook for the agency is much more optimistic than was earlier believed. In April, the agency forecasted that there would be a 15 percent reduction in the earnings of the Social Security Administration as a result of deductions in payroll taxes and other earnings. Now, the agency believes that the actual reduction is likely to be much closer to 10%.

According to the Actuary, the effect on Social Security earnings is not likely to be as great, because of the number of deaths that have already occurred, and are expected to occur as a result of the pandemic. The current economic crisis has something in common with earlier recessions in that there is likely to be more unemployment, leading to lower earnings in the form of payroll taxes into the Social Security Administration. However, unlike other recessions, there are likely to be a large numbers of deaths caused by Covid-19, resulting in fewer benefit payouts for the agency.

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The coronavirus has devastated many individual’s health and economic security. There have been 36 million new claims for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the pandemic. It is critical to address how this economic downturn has impacted Social Security’s finances. First, many Americans have lost jobs over the last few months, which has decreased the payroll tax revenues. The payroll tax is critical in funding Social Security; in 2018, the $885 billion of the $1 trillion collected for Social Security came from payroll taxes. The longer the recession lasts, the greater impact it will have.

Second, lower interest rates decrease the income in the Trust Fund, financial accounts in the U.S. Treasury. Lastly, a recession leads to a low inflation rate, which reduces salaries for all workers. This also decreases the Trust Fund’s tax revenues.

A likely impact of this financial situation is a reduced cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), annual increases in Social Security to compensate for inflation. The depletion date of Social Security funds is currently 2036. If the COVID-19 related unemployment rate increases, that date is expected to be brought forward to 2034. A slower recovery could move the depletion date back to 2032.

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