Posts in:June, 2019

GAO to Investigate Disability Consultant Doctors

Posted June 28, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) plans to investigate the Social Security Administration’s use of consultant doctors to review claims, a congressman announced Monday. The announcement follows a Tennessean report that found some doctors in Tennessee were denying a high rate of applicants while reaping large sums in fees.

In states across the country, doctors are paid on a per-case basis to review disability claims, providing a financial incentive that rewards speed. Facing Social Security’s case backlog, and pressure to protect taxpayer funds, some doctors wrongfully deny low-income people unable to work. The rejections also often lead to a loss of health insurance.

“Since learning about the Tennessean’s investigation, I have been very concerned about this,” U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-Connecticut, said in a statement. “Many states’ Disability Determination Service agencies contract to outside doctors to help make disability determinations and little is known about these practices.”

Larson chairs the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee. Earlier this month, he asked the GAO to examine the system of using contracted doctors, known as medical consultants. The GAO responded June 19 by approving the request. It will take about six months until the appropriate experts are available to begin the investigation, according to a letter from Orice Brown, the GAO congressional liaison.

Larson asked the GAO, the congressional watchdog, to examine how widespread the practice of paying contract doctors is among states and report on how much doctors are compensated. He also requested the GAO report on what qualifications and performance measures are required of these physicians. Larson has also asked for an analysis of the quality of disability decisions.

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By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Andrew M. Saul Sworn in as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration

Posted June 21, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Andrew M. Saul was sworn in Monday, June 17, 2019 as the Commissioner of Social Security at the agency’s office in Washington, D.C. He will serve a six-year term that expires on January 19, 2025.

Commissioner Saul expressed his gratitude at being chosen to serve as the Commissioner of Social Security. “The Social Security programs touch the lives of almost every American – serving in this position is a tremendous privilege and an awesome responsibility,” said Commissioner Saul. “I am humbled by the opportunity to help the agency to deliver critical services to the American people.”

Commissioner Saul brings a vast amount of experience to the position. At the federal level, one of Saul’s greatest achievements was his work with the Federal Thrift Investment Board (FTIB). In 2002, Saul became Chairman of the FTIB, which administers the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The TSP provides military and federal employees the opportunity to save for additional retirement security. Saul led the board to modernize systems and restructure executive staff.

In addition to his federal service, Commissioner Saul has served and worked within numerous state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and private sector businesses. He started his career in the private sector, growing and managing two large publicly traded apparel chains for over 20 years. He served as Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York’s regional transportation system and the country’s largest public transportation network. He also served as Vice Chairman of the Mount Sinai Health System and Chairman of its Audit and Compliance Committee. In addition, he was a Trustee and Chairman of the Audit Committee of the National Gallery of Art, and formerly served as a board member of the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York.

Commissioner Saul will be responsible for administering the Social Security retirement, disability and survivor’s insurance programs that pay over one trillion dollars annually in benefits to approximately 64 million beneficiaries, as well as the Supplemental Security Income program that provides cash assistance to more than 8 million people with limited income and resources. The agency has a national workforce of about 63,000 employees and 1,500 facilities across the country and around the world.

Commissioner Saul is from New York. He is a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, and serves on its Board of Overseers. He and his wife of over 50 years, Denise, have two adult children and three grandchildren.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

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By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Disability for Those with Inability to Speak English Expected to Change

Posted June 14, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Trump administration is expected to change a federal rule this summer that for decades has allowed thousands of older citizens with proven mental or physical disabilities to qualify for federal benefits if they are also unable to communicate in English.

In its proposed rule change, the Social Security Administration (SSA) says the inability to read, write and speak in English is not the barrier it once was, because the “U.S. workforce has become more linguistically diverse and work opportunities have expanded for individuals who lack English proficiency.”

Members of Congress are squaring off over the proposal, with several Democrats saying the Trump administration is promoting an unnecessary and polarizing policy change that discriminates against older workers and is anti-immigrant. Some Republicans who favor the rule change say the current system is antiquated and does not take into account how multilingual U.S. citizens and residents have become.

In the five-step application process for the disability insurance program, the language eligibility requirement can be considered only if the applicant reaches the final step and is at least 45 years old. To get there, applicants must prove, through medical records and physician testimony, that they have severe, long-term disabilities that prevent them from returning to their jobs. In addition, applicants must prove that they cannot function in other lines of work. Applicants who clear this eligibility requirement are often physically disabled and, because of a lack of English proficiency, are unable to switch to desk jobs.

The SSA uses a formula to determine whether applicants have paid a sufficient amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes to qualify. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents or have one of a variety of legal immigrant statuses. Only about one-third of applicants ultimately qualify for benefits.

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By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®