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Geographic Pattern of Disability Receipt Largely Reflects Economic and Demographic Factors; Disability Benefits Especially Important in South and Appalachia

January 13, 2015 Comments off

Geographic Pattern of Disability Receipt Largely Reflects Economic and Demographic Factors ; Disability Benefits Especially Important in South and Appalachia
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

About 6 percent of the nation’s working-age population receives disability payments from Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and people who depend on those benefits live in every state, county, and congressional district. Nevertheless, there’s a distinct “geography of disability.” Some states, chiefly in the South and Appalachia, have much higher rates of receipt — nearly twice the national average.[2] In contrast, states along the Washington-to-Boston corridor (where many policymakers and opinion leaders live), on the West Coast, and in the Great Plains and Mountain West have relatively few disability beneficiaries.

While some critics see this disparity as evidence of problems with the programs, it mostly reflects a few key demographic and economic factors. In a nutshell, states with high rates of disability receipt tend to have populations that are less educated, older, and more blue-collar than other states; they also have fewer immigrants. (See Table 1 for state-by-state data.) In fact, those four factors alone are associated with about 85 percent of the variation in disability receipt rates across states.[3] Furthermore, those factors are directly or indirectly related to the programs’ eligibility criteria.

National Retirement Risk Update Shows Half Still Falling Short

December 26, 2014 Comments off

National Retirement Risk Update Shows Half Still Falling Short
Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

The brief’s key findings are:

  • Between 2010 and 2013, the National Retirement Risk Index improved only slightly, dropping from 53 percent to 52 percent of working-age households.
  • This result may seem surprising given that the stock market was up and housing prices had begun to rebound.
  • But other factors ­– Social Security’s rising “Full Retirement Age,” declining interest rates, and changes in reverse mortgage rules – acted as counterweights.
  • The bottom line is that retirement security remains a serious challenge; Americans need to save more and/or work longer.

CBO’s 2014 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Additional Information

December 19, 2014 Comments off

CBO’s 2014 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Additional Information
Source: Congressional Budget office

Social Security is the federal government’s largest single program. Of the 59 million people who currently receive Social Security benefits, about 71 percent are retired workers or their spouses and children, and another 10 percent are survivors of deceased workers; all of those beneficiaries receive payments through Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI). The other 19 percent of beneficiaries are disabled workers or their spouses and children; they receive Disability Insurance (DI) benefits.

In fiscal year 2014, spending for Social Security benefits totaled $840 billion, or almost one-quarter of federal spending; OASI payments accounted for about 83 percent of those outlays, and DI payments made up about 17 percent. Each year, CBO prepares long-term projections of revenues and outlays for the program. The most recent set of 75-year projections was published in July 2014. Those projections generally reflect current law, following CBO’s 10-year baseline budget projections through 2024 and then extending the baseline concept for the rest of the long-term projection period. This publication presents additional information about those projections.

Retirement Benefit Decisions by City and County Governments

December 19, 2014 Comments off

Retirement Benefit Decisions by City and County Governments
Source: Center for State & Local Government Excellence

Key findings:

  • Workers who work a full career in their city or county can expect a retirement income of between 45 and 80 percent of their pre-retirement income.
  • Career employees of local governments who participate in Social Security can expect retirement income replacement rates of 20 to 30 percentage points higher than employees whose governments do not participate in Social Security.
  • These and other variations mean that many local workers will need to be disciplined about participating in savings plans, outside of their primary plans, to meet their retirement security goals.

Misplaced Priorities: How the Social Security Administration Sacrificed Quality for Quality in the Disability Determination Process

December 18, 2014 Comments off

Misplaced Priorities: How the Social Security Administration Sacrificed Quality for Quality in the Disability Determination Process
Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Key Findings:

  • All of the 48 ALJ focused reviews conducted by SSA and reviewed by Committee staff showed numerous deficiencies in ALJ decision-making and several disturbing patterns. ALJs conducted few or inadequate hearings, misused vocational experts, failed to properly assess work ability and relied too heavily on medical briefs prepared by claimants’ paid representatives. (p. 13)
  • SSA continues to allow ALJs to decide cases even when they demonstrate gross incompetence or negligence in handling their responsibilities. In several cases, SSA did not inform the ALJ about the negative focused review for over eight months after the review was completed. (p. 28)
  • SSA was singularly focused on churning out a large volume of dispositions, which led to inappropriate benefit awards. In 2007, the agency directed ALJs to decide 500 to 700 decisions each year, without conducting any study to determine how long it takes ALJs to evaluate cases and issue informed decisions.
  • SSA encouraged ALJs to take shortcuts in deciding cases to increase the amount of decisions issued each year. The agency promoted on-the-record decisions, which do not require a hearing, and bench decisions, which do not require a written opinion, to increase the number of decisions issued.

New From the GAO

December 11, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Immigration Benefits: Improvements Needed to Fully Implement the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act. GAO-15-3, December 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-3
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667396.pdf

2. SSA Disability Benefits: Enhanced Policies and Management Focus Needed to Address Potential Physician-Assisted Fraud. GAO-15-19, November 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-19
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666831.pdf

3. Information Technology: HUD Can Take Additional Actions to Improve Its Governance. GAO-15-56, December 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-56
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667359.pdf

4. Transportation for Older Adults: Measuring Results Could Help Determine If Coordination Efforts Improve Mobility. GAO-15-158, December 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-158
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667376.pdf

5. Public Transit: Federal and Transit Agencies Taking Steps to Build Transit Systems’ Resilience but Face Challenges. GAO-15-159, December 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-159
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667394.pdf

Testimonies

1. NASA: Human Space Exploration Programs Face Challenges, by Cristina T. Chaplain, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittee on Space, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-15-248T, December 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-248T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667351.pdf

2. Unmanned Aerial Systems: Efforts Made toward Integration into the National Airspace Continue, but Many Actions Still Required, by Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-15-254T, December 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-254T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667398.pdf

3. Federal Retirement Processing: Applying Information Technology Acquisition Best Practices Could Help OPM Overcome a Long History of Unsuccessful Modernization Efforts, by Valerie C. Melvin, director, information management and technology resources issues, before the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and the Census, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-15-277T, December 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-277T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667372.pdf

Retirement Benefit Decisions by City and County Governments

November 21, 2014 Comments off

Retirement Benefit Decisions by City and County Governments
Source: Center for State and Local Government Excellence

Key findings:

  • Workers who work a full career in their city or county can expect a retirement income of between 45 and 80 percent of their pre-retirement income.
  • Career employees of local governments who participate in Social Security can expect retirement income replacement rates of 20 to 30 percentage points higher than employees whose governments do not participate in Social Security.
  • These and other variations mean that many local workers will need to be disciplined about participating in savings plans, outside of their primary plans, to meet their retirement security goals.
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