Social Security Administration Policy

Social Security Administration Regulations

Social Security Related Legislation


Social Security Administration Policy 

NOSSCR leadership meets regularly with representatives from the Social Security Administration, including the Commissioner of Social Security, the Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), and the head of the Appeals Council. These meetings have enabled us to create relationships that lead to problem solving.

    • NOSSCR submitted comments on SSA's proposed standardized fee agreement form and statement of interpreter.
    • NOSSCR has opposed Social Security Ruling (SSR) 17-4p regarding duties for developing pre-hearing written evidence.  
    • NOSSCR has joined with other organizations to request that Acting Commissioner Colvin adjust the fee cap under the fee agreement. 
    • NOSSCR has submitted comments on SSA’s proposal to exclude evidence furnished by certain individuals or entities. NOSSCR recognizes the importance of relying on credible medical evidence from trustworthy medical providers when determining whether an individual meets the definition of disability and our comments comments focused on the importance of maintaining good cause exceptions to this rule.
    • NOSSCR’s meetings with the Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) resulted in a reminder to all ALJs that prehearing orders may not include deadlines for submitting evidence. 
    • We were also instrumental in the rescission of the rule that the ALJ’s identity would be a secret. 
    • We provided examples about how closing of all temporary remote hearing locations would harm claimants and made it possible for some to remain open.
    • NOSSCR keeps members informed of proposed SSA revisions to Listings of Impairments – including neurological listings, HIV infection listings and the extension of expiration dates for several body listings.

Social Security Administration Regulations 

NOSSCR’s comments on proposed Social Security regulations are highly regarded and persuasive. As a result of recent NOSSCR comments, for example, direct deposit of attorneys’ fees is not required, and ALJs are required to try to recontact treating sources before sending a claimant to a consultative examination. 

In April 2014 NOSSCR commented on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Submission of Evidence in Disability Claims. 

NOSSCR members have written amicus briefs and argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in such cases as:

      • Biestek v. Berryhill, which will answer the question of whether a vocational expert's (VE's) testimony can constitute substantial evidence of "other work" at step five of sequential evaluation process when the VE fails to provide the underlying data on which that testimony is premised upon the applicant's request.  
      • Culbertson v. Berryhill, which will be heard in the Supreme Court’s October 2018 term, will resolve discrepancies among the circuit courts on how attorney fees are calculated when lawyers successfully represent claimants seeking Social Security disability benefits at both the administrative and court levels.
      • Lucia v. SEC, holding that administrative law judges (ALJs) appointed within the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must be done in a way that aligns with the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
      • Astrue v. Capato, 132 S.Ct. 2021 (2012), holding that a posthumously conceived child who can inherit under the laws of intestacy of the relevant state can receive Social Security survivor’s benefits.
      • Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S.___, 130 S.Ct. 2521 (2010), involving the issue of whether the EAJA fee belongs to the plaintiff or the attorney.
      • Richlin Security Service Co. v. Chertoff, 553 U.S. 571 (2008), holding that EAJA fees for paralegal services should be paid at “prevailing market rates” rather than considered an “other expense.”
      • Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 US 789 (2002) involving the calculation of attorneys’ fees for representation in federal court.
      • Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103 (2000) holding that an issue not raised at the Appeals Council level is not waived in federal court.

Social Security Related Legislation 

President Signs Bill to Strengthen Social Security's Rep Payee Program Into Law

On April 13, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 (H.R. 4547).  Introduced by Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Ranking Member John Larson (D-CT), this bipartisan legislation will modernize the representative payee program so that it will better protect Social Security beneficiaries who are unable to manage their own benefits.

Specifically, the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 will:

  • Strengthen oversight of representative payees by increasing the number of performance reviews of payees, requiring additional types of reviews, and improving the effectiveness of reviews;
  • Reduce the burden on families by eliminating the requirement to file the annual accounting form for representative payees who are parents living with their children or who are spouses;
  • Protect the most vulnerable beneficiaries through improved information-sharing by requiring the Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify whether a beneficiary is in foster care and reassess whether the payee is appropriate, and by directing the SSA to study how better to coordinate with Adult Protective Services and with state guardianship courts;
  • Enhance personal control by allowing beneficiaries to make a designation of their preferred payee in advance, and improve payee selection by requiring the SSA to assess the appropriateness of the order-of-preference list it uses to select payees;
  • Limit overpayment liability for children in the child welfare system; and
  • Ensure that no beneficiary has a barred payee by codifying the policy that bans individuals with certain criminal convictions from serving as payees (including individuals currently serving as payees) and prohibiting individuals who have payees from serving as a payee for others.

CLICK HERE for the legislative text of the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018.
CLICK HERE to read the Ways and Means Committee’s technical explanation outlining H.R. 4547, and CLICK HERE to read the letter that the Committee sent to the Social Security Administration afterwards.
CLICK HERE to learn more about how this bipartisan bill helps millions of Americans.

NOSSCR proudly supported this bill given the essential role representative payees play in serving the needs of millions of beneficiaries who need assistance managing their benefits.  

Fiscal Year 2017 Spending Plan Finalized 

Last week, Congress passed and the President signed a spending bill that funds the federal government through the rest of Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), which ends on September 30. SSA’s administrative budget is broadly similar to last year’s, with two exceptions. 

First, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget had allocated $150 million to SSA to renovate its headquarters in Woodlawn, Maryland. The series of “continuing resolutions” that kept the government open for the first part of FY17 stated that SSA would receive another $150 million this year, specifically for reducing the backlog at the hearing level. However, the final FY17 budget only allows $90 million for backlog-reducing measures. SSA is currently determining how they will use this smaller amount of money. The agency has indicated it is continuing to hire and train new ALJs and has also recently hired approximately 200 decision writers and other support staff. 

The second change in SSA funding is that the agency received approximately $400 million more for “program integrity” activities. These include Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs), SSI redeterminations, Cooperative Disability Investigation Units, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys (SAUSAs) who help prosecute Social Security fraud cases.

As the Trump Administration begins preparing its Fiscal Year 2018 budget request, NOSSCR will continue to advocate for SSA to receive sufficient administrative funding. The agency must have the resources it needs to manage all of its workloads and provide quality service to claimants, beneficiaries, representatives, and the general public. 

2017 Congressional Budget Resolution

The Senate will vote this week on a number of amendments to its budget resolution, and then on the budget itself. The budget, if passed, would begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act. NOSSCR has endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I -VT) amendment that creates a point of order against any legislation that would break Donald Trump’s promise not to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Government Shutdown Avoided (Or At Least Postponed)

Congress passed a continuing resolution that will keep the federal government open until December 9. The Senate vote was 72-26 and the House vote was 342-85. The President signed this legislation on September 29.

The continuing resolution cuts discretionary spending by 0.496%. SSA will face a cut of about $53 million. SSA believes that its costs to provide the current level of service will increase by over $300 million in the coming fiscal year. This means that SSA will have to find ways to cut its expenses, and the agency will be less productive in Fiscal Year 2017. The only area of SSA operations exempt from the cut are certain types of program integrity spending, including Continuing Disability Reviews and SSI redeterminations. Funding for program integrity will remain at Fiscal Year 2016 levels under the continuing resolution.

Members of Congress are expected to return to Washington after Election Day to discuss federal spending for the rest of Fiscal Year 2017, which runs from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017. 

Congress is Considering Cuts to Social Security’s Operating Budget – Act Now

Today, a record one million Americans are waiting over 575 days on average for a hearing on their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability claims. Today’s backlog exists because Social Security’s operating budget has been cut by over 10 percent since 2010, while workloads have increased as the baby boomers age.

Now, Congress is considering even more cuts. A funding bill in the House of Representatives would cut Social Security’s operating budget by over $250 million in 2017. Under the House bill, the Social Security Administration would need to close all its offices for two weeks, since all employees would be furloughed. And a hiring freeze would lead to longer wait times and delays in all parts of our Social Security retirement, survivors’, and disability system. The Senate version of the bill provides slightly more funding, but still fails to address many critical agency resource needs.

Contact your Congressional Representative TODAY and tell them to fully fund the Social Security Administration.

Tell them:

    • I urge you to vote to fully fund the Social Security Administration’s operating budget, at the levels requested in President Obama’s 2017 budget.
    • Today, over 1 million people with disabilities are waiting over 575 days on average for a hearing on their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability claims. This is an all-time high. Most people have little to no income while waiting for a hearing, and run the risk of financial ruin and worsening health the longer they wait.
    • Social Security’s operating budget has been reduced by 10 percent from 2010 levels. Any further cuts will lead to even longer, more devastating waits and reduced service to the public.
    • Americans cannot afford a Social Security Administration that is underfunded and understaffed.
    • Please ensure that Social Security’s operating budget is fully funded for 2017 at levels the President has requested.

Social Security Earned Benefits Payment Act

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Sander Levin (D-MI) introduced the Social Security Earned Benefits Payment Act (S. 2090H.R. 3621) on September 28, 2015. There are 27 cosponsors in the Senate and 9 in the House.  All of the sponsors are Democrats.

This bill would provide for a “clean reallocation” of tax revenues, as Congress has done 11 times in the past with bipartisan support. Changing the percentage of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes that are placed in Social Security’s Disability Insurance Trust Fund and Old Age and Survivors’ Trust Fund for calendar years 2016-2020 would allow both trust funds to remain solvent until 2034.  If the distribution of tax revenues between the trust funds does not change, and Congress does not take any other action, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund is expected to become insolvent in late 2016, meaning that it could only pay 81% of scheduled benefits. 

This bill does not meet the requirements of the House rule passed by the Republican majority in January 2015. That rule creates a “point of order,” or procedural barrier, against any substantial reallocation that is not paired with spending reductions or revenue increases that benefit the combined trust funds. However, a simple majority of the House could vote to overturn the point of order; if the Social Security Earned Benefits Payment Act has enough votes to pass the House, the rule would not be a significant obstacle. 

Although Republicans have promised to avoid the across-the-board cuts that would result from Congressional inaction, it is unlikely that they will support the Social Security Earned Benefits Payment Act at this time. NOSSCR is closely monitoring the situation in Congress regarding trust fund solvency, and will send action alerts to members at any time when members of Congress would benefit from hearing from constituents on this important issue.  


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