A lot can be learned from the press releases from the Social Security Administration (SSA) concerning their priorities and how they are being addressed.
SSA has requested restoration of funding cut from its prior year budget so as to "increase our cost-effective program integrity work and enhance our vigorous fraud prevention efforts, improve our service to the American public, and modernize service delivery." It is amazing that SSA continues to focus on fraud prevention when it fails to undertake continuing disability reviews at a record rate. This is where most of the fraud would be discovered, yet SSA still avoids undertaking these reviews as it should. SSA's promise to double the rate of these reviews is rather self-serving as this effort is long overdue. Further, SSA does not address the enormous backlog of cases which have not had hearings or the continuing shortage of administrative law judges to hear these cases. Rather, SSA keeps focusing on its current mission to combat "fraud, waste and abuse" when it is clear that the people most abused are the claimants who are made to wait years to obtain their much-needed disability benefits.
SSA is proud to tout a new, expedited disability process for veterans. Veteran's disability applications are now to be given high priority and receive issuance of expedited decisions. While all of us appreciate the sacrifices made by our servicepeople, this same service should be given to the entire population of this country. SSA's attempt to buy good publicity should not come at the detriment to the general public who paid their taxes into the system to fund the disability program and should not be given lesser priority for any reason.
SSA also has sought publicity for it issuance of new supplemental security income rules for same-sex couples. Again, focusing on small numbers of claimants does little to assist with the global problem of enormous hearing and decision backlogs in the system affecting all disabled U.S. claimants.
Another area SSA touted as a success is its list of new conditions which should result in expedited decisions, which it terms "compassionate allowances." Among these conditions are
• Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor
• Chronic Idiopathic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction
• Coffin-Lowry Syndrome
• Giant Axonal Neuropathy
• Hoyeaal-Hreidarsson Syndrome
• Intracranial Hemagiopericytoma
• Joubert Syndrome
• Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis
• Liposarcoma-metastatic or recurrent
• Malignant ectomesenchymoma
• Malignant renal rhabdoid tumor
• Marshall-Smith Syndrome
• Oligodendroglioma Brain Tumor - Grade III
• Pallister-Killian Syndrome
• Progressive Bulbar Palsy
• Prostate Cancer - Hormone Refractory Disease - or with visceral metastases
• Revesz Syndrome
• Seckel Syndrome
• Sjogren-Larsson Syndrome
• Small Cell Cancer of the Thymus
• Soft Tissue Sarcoma - with distant metastases or recurrent
• X-Linked lymphoproliferative Disease
• X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy
At first glance, one would think that by allowing this large list of conditions is very beneficial to claimants. Unfortunately, in our combined approximately 50 years of law practice, we have only handled prostate cancer cases and not a single on of the other conditions listed. Therefore, SSA's compassionate allowances for these rare conditions really does very little to help the great majority of claimants at all.
Of course, SSA ended its year with a cheerful press release reminding everyone that the Disability Insurance Fund will become depleted in 2016.
Happy New Year to All From Your Friends At The Social Security Administration!!!