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Systematic Bias and Nontransparency in US Social Security Administration Forecasts

July 7, 2015 Comments off

Systematic Bias and Nontransparency in US Social Security Administration Forecasts (PDF)
Source: Journal of Economic Perspectives

In the conclusion of the article, we argue that the Social Security Administration and its Office of the Chief Actuary should follow best practices in academia and many other parts of government and make their forecasting procedures public and replicable, and should calculate and report calibrated uncertainty intervals for all forecasts. In a companion paper, we offer an explanation for the origin of the biases reported here and propose simple structural ways of changing the system to fix the problems going forward.

Psychological Testing in the Service of Disability Determination (2015)

June 29, 2015 Comments off

Psychological Testing in the Service of Disability Determination (2015) (PDF)
Source: Institute of Medicine

The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), for disabled individuals, and their dependent family members, who have worked and contributed to the Social Security trust funds, and Supplemental Security Income (SSSI), which is a means-tested program based on income and financial assets for adults aged 65 years or older and disabled adults and children. Both programs require that claimants have a disability and meet specific medical criteria in order to qualify for benefits. SSA establishes the presence of a medically-determined impairment in individuals with mental disorders other than intellectual disability through the use of standard diagnostic criteria, which include symptoms and signs. These impairments are established largely on reports of signs and symptoms of impairment and functional limitation.

Psychological Testing in the Service of Disability Determination considers the use of psychological tests in evaluating disability claims submitted to the SSA. This report critically reviews selected psychological tests, including symptom validity tests, that could contribute to SSA disability determinations. The report discusses the possible uses of such tests and their contribution to disability determinations. Psychological Testing in the Service of Disability Determination discusses testing norms, qualifications for administration of tests, administration of tests, and reporting results. The recommendations of this report will help SSA improve the consistency and accuracy of disability determination in certain cases.

Reforming Government Pensions to Better Distribute Benefits: What Are the Options?

June 23, 2015 Comments off

Reforming Government Pensions to Better Distribute Benefits: What Are the Options?
Source: Urban Institute

Efforts to reform the retirement plans provided to state and local government employees are gaining momentum across the country. Yet, the debate has focused almost exclusively on the financial problems of public pension plans, drowning out a broader discussion of how well these plans serve government employees, employers, and taxpayers. This report identifies promising reform options that could more fairly distribute retirement benefits across the public-sector workforce and help governments recruit and retain productive employees. Options include revising the plan benefit formula, offering alternative plan designs, and extending Social Security coverage to all state and local government employees.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits in Puerto Rico Based on an Inability to Speak English

June 20, 2015 Comments off

Qualifying for Disability Benefits in Puerto Rico Based on an Inability to Speak English
Source: Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant qualifies for disability benefits. In claims that reach the last step in the process, adjudicators use medical-vocational guidelines (grids) developed in the 1970s to guide them in deciding a claimant’s physical and vocational abilities to adjust to work in the national economy.

When deciding a case under the grids, adjudicators evaluate a claimant’s physical capacity to work along with age, education, and work experience. The ability to speak, read, write, and understand English is considered an educational factor. A claimant’s inability to communicate in English can lessen the relevance of work experience and education, potentially making it more likely the claimant will receive disability benefits.

The objective of our audit was to analyze the effect of regulations requiring that disability adjudicators allow a disability claim based on a claimant’s inability to understand the English language for claimants residing in Puerto Rico.

Is 65 the Best Cutoff for Defining “Older Americans?”

June 10, 2015 Comments off

Is 65 the Best Cutoff for Defining “Older Americans?”
Source: American Institutes for Research

Baby Boomers are aging and the Congress is changing; public policy issues on aging have never been more important. Do the issues that define “old age” really begin at 65? Although Americans are living longer, other changes in health status and workforce behavior could be used to argue that age 65 is too late to begin to worry about the challenges of an aging population.

Two key areas of concern when considering age from a policy perspective are the health and economic status (including labor force behavior) of older individuals. These variables affect not only the well-being of older Americans but the pocketbooks of American taxpayers. If age for program eligibility can be increased without harming older Americans, billions of dollars in government spending could potentially be saved.

In an effort to enlighten this debate, the Center on Aging developed this brief, in which AIR researchers explore data on income, resources, health, and family structure to look at how well age 65 captures a good cutoff for eligibility for programs and for discussing issues facing older Americans.

Overpayments in the Social Security Administration’s Disability Programs – A 10-Year Study

June 9, 2015 Comments off

Overpayments in the Social Security Administration’s Disability Programs – A 10-Year Study
Source: Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General

We selected for review a sample of 1,532 beneficiaries from a file of 8.9 million beneficiaries who were receiving disability payments in October 2003.

We originally reviewed these 1,532 cases for an April 2006 audit.

Our objective of this report is to study 1,532 beneficiaries who received disability benefits in October 2003 to determine the amount of overpayments in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability programs between October 2003 and February 2014 (just over a 10-year period).

Congressional Response Report: Payment of Social Security Benefits to Individuals Who May Have Participated in Nazi Persecution

June 2, 2015 Comments off

Congressional Response Report: Payment of Social Security Benefits to Individuals Who May Have Participated in Nazi Persecution
Source: Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General

The Social Security Act prohibits paying retirement and/or disability benefits to individuals who are placed under a final order of deportation or removal from the United States for participating in Nazi persecution or committing crimes of genocide.

On October 20, 2014, we received a request from Representative Carolyn Maloney to review the payment of Social Security benefits to individuals who participated in Nazi persecution during World War II.

On December 18, 2014, the President signed the No Social Security for Nazis Act into law. The law terminates the payment of Social Security benefits to additional individuals who participated in Nazi persecution.

For our review, we obtained information from SSA and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine that 133 individuals who may have participated in Nazi persecution received Social Security benefits.

The objective of our audit was to determine the amount of benefits SSA paid to individuals who may have participated in Nazi persecution. We also determined whether SSA properly stopped benefits to individuals who participated in Nazi persecution in accordance with the No Social Security for Nazis Act.

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