President Trump Takes First Step Towards Removing 2,000 Administrative Law Judges From Federal Payroll

 

 

POTUS has stripped all Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) of Civil Service Protection. They now have no job security.

DID SOMEONE SAY “DRAIN THE SWAMP”?Effective July 10, 2018 ALJs no longer have Civil Service Protection against wrongful termination or removal at will by their Agency Head.
Also, ALJs will no longer be selected or appointed by competitive examinations.
All Federal ALJs can now be fired at will or removed from office by the Agency Head where they are employed.
They have no right to “Due Process” or a NLRB Hearing on-the-record. This is a major blow to their Judicial Independence. They can now be told when and where to hold Hearings by GS-3 Agency Clerks. Moreover, they can be ordered to hold a specific number of Hearings per week or month. This amounts to a Quota. In point of Fact, they can be told what the expected Decision should be in a particular Case. This will reduce Judges to rubber stamps for bureaucratic Supervisors.
This could be the first step in a well planned move to abolish the Position of ALJ and all Senior Executive Level Legal Positions and their Support Groups.
That could conceivably eliminate about 2,000 GS-15 and GS-16 Positions.
The first step is simply to take away their Job Security, which are primarily their Civil Service Protections. These include Due Process Rights, and a Hearing On The Record.
The second step could be to take away their Jurisdiction. Remove their Authority to hear particular types of cases. Transfer their job duties to someone else, such as a Senior Staff Attorney, or a Paralegal.
The third step would be to eliminate their Position, all together. With no job duties, there is no need for the Position.
When the Social Security Administration (SSA) recently eliminated The Treating Physician Rule, the immediate effect was to increase the BACK LOG of Disability Cases waiting for a Hearing, and to lengthened the time for Claimants to receive a Decision on their Disability Claim.
It now takes an average of over 2 years to get a Hearing before an ALJ if a Claimant Appeals a Denial Decision from the State Disability Determination Service (DDS). Also, it takes 6 months or more after a Hearing to receive a Decision. A Claimant does not know whether he won or lost his Appeal until 6 months after the Hearing. Claimants have been known to die or commit suicide waiting to hear what the Decision was in their Case.
President Trump has devised one sure way to wipe out the Hearing BACK LOG. He will get rid of the ALJs. Eliminating the requirement for a Hearing would streamline the Disability Decision Making Process.
However, eliminating the Hearing Requirement is the biggest obstacle to eliminating the Position of ALJ.

A Senior Attorney or a Paralegal can perform all of the duties of an ALJ, except for holding a Hearing.
If the Government can deny Disability Claims without a Hearing, there is no need for an ALJ.
The big issue is whether Disability Insurance Benefits are Personal Property? American citizens who pay Social Security Taxes have a social contract with the Government. Does that amount to a Property Interest?
The Government cannot take Property without Due Process. That requires a Formal Hearing on the Record pursuant to The Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
If the Government uses Senior Attorneys , and later ParaLegals to decide Disability Claims, it will be cheaper and Processing Times will be shorter.
A Lawyer can process the Claim in a few hours. That would eliminate the 2 year wait to get a Hearing. The Back Log would disappear forever.
ALJ salaries are about 60% of the SSA Budget. ALJs make $167,000.00 a year. A GS-9 Lawyer makes about $55,000.

Claimants will still be able to appeal unfavorable Decisions. Many cases reach Article 3 Courts, even with ALJs in the Appeal Process. ALJs are Article 2 Judges. They are in the Executive Branch Of Government. Article 3 Courts are Under The Supreme Court.
Trump will save $millions, and lower The Deficit.
When POTUS stripped all Administrative Law Judges Of Civil Service Protections he surprised a lot of the Members Of The Deep State.
ALJs can now be fired at will or removed from office by the Agency Head where they are employed.
They have no right to “Due Process” or a NLRB Hearing on-the-record.
For years the SSA Association Of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ) has lobbied Congress to remove SSA’s ALJs from under the authority of the SSA Commissioner.  SSA ALJs have their own union, the AALJ.

All ALJs pay Union Dues. These Dues are used to pay Professional Lobbyists on behave of theALHs.
There is an Old Saying goes “Be careful what you wish for; it might come true”.
Well, it now appears that the SSA ALJs can be fired at will by the Commissioner of Social Security. In the past it took 2 years to remove an ALJ because of Civil Service Protections. With one stroke of a pen, POTUS has stripped them of all job security.

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Confession Is Good For The Soul; Two Social Security Judges and a Psychologist Cleanse Their Souls, Get Long Jail Time

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The Coast Guard Academy Class of 2018

Assimilation, not Segregation, is The Goal. Coast Guard Academy Graduates 50 Years Later.

Fifty Years after the Coast Guard Academy graduated its first African-American cadet, the Class of 2018 boasts the largest number of Black Graduates. In 1966 there was one, Ensign Merle James Smith, Junior from Baltimore, Maryland. In 2018 there are eighteen, among them Ensign Karida Harris, also from Baltimore, Maryland,shown below shaking the hand of Vice President Mike Pence, the Graduation Speaker.

Below, Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Paul Zukunft, stands proudly in the middle of this Black Tidal Wave of Ensigns.

As I observe and ponder this new phenomenon in Coast Guard and American History, I am left with some soul searching questions. I have a right to ask these questions because I dedicated a major portion of my Coast Guard Career to recruiting Black high school students for the Coast Guard Academy.

My first emotions are Joy, Happiness, and Pride. God is good, and He works in wondrous, even mysterious ways. In 1964 when I entered the Coast Guard Academy, I never would have dreamed that this day would ever come. We find ourselves on the threshold of a New Era in Coast Guard History. In 50 years I have seen the Coast Guard go from the horse and buggy phase to inter-planetary phase of travel in the area of Equal Opportunity, particularly where America’s Citizens of Color are concerned.

The events of this past week have left me all warm and fuzzy about my Alma Mater. However, after seven Decades of living in America, and the last eight years of Fundamental Change under the previous Administration, I am hesitant to pop the champagne corks, just yet. The decades come and go, and the Ebb and Flow of History does not always take us where we think we are heading. The President who was supposed to stop the rise of the Oceans and bring us all together as a Nation of Americans, has left us more divided than at any time in my life. I spent my first 21 years under a System of Jim Crow Segregation where we acquiesced to a Political System called Separate But Equal.

When the Supreme Court told us that “Separate” was inherently “Unequal”, we looked to a day when America would be fully “integrated” into a Color-blind Society. We thought and prayed that Obama would be the final link in that chain. Unfortunately, we were wrong. Honest and objective critical thinkers today see that we were all hood-winked. I saw men and women, some of my high school classmates killed fighting for equal rights and full integration in the 1960s. Our Society was working towards Full Integration, not just De-segregation. But today, Black students at Harvard University are demanding a return to “Separate But Equal”. How the worm turns!

(See, Above Twitter Post of Harvard Black Students’ Separate Graduation 2018.)

This trend disturbs me very much. Obama was a Harvard Graduate. Many of our National Leaders are Harvard Alumni. I do not agree with most of their Liberal Leftist Policies and Opinions, but they impact all Americans. I accept the results of fair National Elections. We suffered under Obama and his twisted appointees for eight years. And I see what it has brought us; more divided that united, clamoring for separation rather than integration, separating into splinter group constituencies, and taking a giant step backwards in the area of Human Relation, American Style.

So, what does this mean for the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2018, and this constant pigeon-holing of Coast Guard Officers? They were separate social and culture groups in 2014 when they entered the Academy. Their four years of training was designed to tear down barriers and to turn them into a unified Corps of Coast Guard Officers. They were to think alike, act alike, and be alike; they were to do everything except look alike, which is not possible. America wanted Coast Guard Officers, not Balkanized marine specialists with allegiances to separate groups in our Society. This constant separation into various superficial groups for statistical purposes does not bring us together as an American Society. It works against the idea of “E pluribus Unum”.

When will these Graduates cease to be Black Coast Guard Officers or African-American Officers, and become simply Coast Guard Officers or just Officers?
 Starting at Swab Summer we strive to eliminate distinctions between the cadets. We try to put them through a four year cookie cutter training program that turns out exact replicas. I may be overstating it a bit, but that is the intention.

https://www.theday.com/article/20180523/NWS09/180529718

If all the other graduates are plainly and simply Coast Guard Officers, why must we consider these to be Black Officers or African-American Officers? We still hover in the shadow of “Separate But Equal”, knowing that Separate is inherently Unequal. Fifty years after Merle Smith graduated, Black Officers are still considered a separate and distinct specie.

I fear that not many will see my point. It is very subtle, and it takes old age and a lifetime of experiences as a Black Man in majority white America and a retired Coast Guard officer to perceive the distinction.  Also, a lot of world travel and exposure to other cultures and societies have helped to mold my opinion.

I understand the need to be recognized, to be accepted into a group, and to be held in high esteem by your peers. I understand the need for keeping statistics and the desire to get credit for jobs well-done.
 For example consider Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. It is a theory in psychology proposed by  Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Humans need food, sleep, safety, love, and purpose.

We humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among social groups, regardless whether these groups are large or small. For example, some large social groups may include clubs, co-workers, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, gangs, and online communities. Some examples of small social connections include family members, intimate partners, mentors, colleagues, and confidants. Humans need to love and be loved – both sexually and non-sexually – by others.

Esteem needs are ego needs or status needs develop a concern with getting recognition, status, importance, and respect from others. All humans have a need to feel respected; this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value. Low self-esteem or an inferiority complex may result from imbalances during this level in the hierarchy. People with low self-esteem often need respect from others; they may feel the need to seek fame or glory. However, fame or glory will not help the person to build their self-esteem until they accept who they are internally.
How does one explain the need for the National Bar Association, NBA, when there is an American Bar Association, ABA? Perhaps they would not allow Black Attorney members or they would not recognize Black achievement.

Why do we need a Black History Month, if American History is taught in school? (Assuming it is taught, AND the historians consider Black citizens to be Americans.)
What is the usefulness of praise or honor that you have to buy? If you have to write your own news stories to praise yourself, it is the same as recommending yourself for a medal , and writing the citation. It is fake, false, worthless. It is akin to the difference between making love to your wife versus paying a Hooker for commercial sex. The emotional content is different. One has meaning, soul satisfaction; while, the other merely scratches an itch.

If only Black Officers praise and respect you, are you truly respected lord honored? If only the Black Community praises and respects you, are you truly honored? These officers deserve the praise and respect of the overall American population; as Coast Guard Officers, not as a sub-category of Officer.

 The American Dream is to become an American, not an American version of what we were. When America first allowed Immigrants to come to America, Immigrants forbade their children to learn the language of the Old Country; instead they were forced to learn American/English.
 Assimilation is the American ideal, the Dream. When Black high school graduates assimilate into the USCG Officer Corps, when they join the Long Blue Line, they become Coast Guard Officers, not Black Officers or African-American Officers. Separate But Equal is not full Integration. It is only De-Segregation.
 These officers are “stigmatized “ at birth; that is to say, at graduation. The men and women out in the Field of the Coast Guard are being told these officers are different. Black Officers need to be Assimilated, not separated. Taking them aside and photographing them is almost like a “Perp Walk”.

I would give these Black Officers some advice. When they report to their First Duty Stations they should avoid all activities identified as Black Only. They should forget that they are Black, and stop thinking Black. They should become American first and Coast Guard second. They should leave their Blackness at home in the morning, go to work and be a good Coast Guard Officer. They should never again think of themselves as Black Officers. They are Coast Guard Officers. When they retire they can go back to being Black, if possible.

They should hang around with the other Officers, and the chiefs. I know Birds of a feather, flock together. But, a bird does not cease to be a bird if he spends some time with Lions, or Elephants or even Snakes. He already knows how to fly. Other birds cannot teach him anything he doesn’t already know. But a Lion could teach him how to have heart and be a King. An Elephant could help him improve his memory. Hanging around snakes could teach him subtlety and other socially unacceptable traits that would serve him well when evil doers seek to take advantage of him. My advice to the Class of 2018 is to be as wise a Serpents, but as harmlessly Doves.

This type of mind control and discipline is not much different from what a Judge must do when he puts on his Black Robe. He must shed his biases, prejudices, and other human foibles. While he is on the Bench he must pretend to be a god, and act totally objectively. Hypothetically, a Black Panther Judge should be able to fairly Judge the Case Of even a KKK Wizard.

Categories: Social Security Benefits | 4 Comments

When Will SSA Get A Real Commissioner, If Ever?

On January 23, 2017, Nancy A. Berryhill became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, with responsibility for overseeing one of the nation’s largest and most important domestic programs. (When will SSA get a real Commissioner? President appointed only Acting Commissioners.)

                                                                                                                  

 With a $12 billion budget and almost 64,000 employees serving in more than 1,500 offices across the country and around the world, plus 16,000 State employees making disability determinations, the Social Security Administration issues more than $960 billion in payments to nearly 66 million people each year.

Previously, Ms. Berryhill served as the Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security’s largest component, where she successfully implemented many expanded service delivery options for the public. Prior to that position, Ms. Berryhill served two years as the agency’s Regional Commissioner for the Chicago Region and five years as Regional Commissioner for the Denver Region. In Denver, she developed numerous innovative, mission-focused initiatives such as video service delivery, use of webinar technology, and the creation of the first American Indian outreach guide.

Ms. Berryhill began her Social Security career as a GS-2 student employee. In her 40 years at the agency, she has held many frontline positions, including Claims Clerk, Service Representative, Claims Representative, Operations Supervisor, District Manager, and Area Director for the State of Illinois.

Ms. Berryhill has received numerous agency awards, including the Commissioner’s Citation, the agency’s highest recognition. In 2010, she received the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive, and in 2015, she received the Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive, the highest honor awarded career executives in the Federal Government. Her work and achievements consistently demonstrate professional excellence, exceptional leadership, integrity, and commitment to public service.

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Ms. Berryhill obtained her degree in Computer Science at the Control Data Institute in Chicago. She is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

PREVIOUS ACTING COMMISSIONER:

Meet The New Acting Commissioner Of THe Social Security Administration, Carolyn Colvin.

                                                                                                             

On February 14, 2013, Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security.  Prior to this designation, she served as the Deputy Commissioner, having been confirmed by the United States Senate on December 22, 2010 as President Obama’s nominee.  In addition to her role as the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Ms. Colvin serves as a Trustee to the Social Security Board of Trustees.

Throughout her career, Ms. Colvin has managed programs that help people with their healthcare and financial needs.  She previously held key executive positions at Social Security Headquarters: Deputy Commissioner for Policy and External Affairs (1994–1996), Deputy Commissioner for Programs and Policy (1996–1998), and Deputy Commissioner for Operations (1998–2001).

Prior to returning to SSA, Ms. Colvin was the Director of Human Services for the District of Columbia (2001-2003); the Director of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (2003-2007); the Chief Executive Officer of AMERIGROUP Community Care of the District of Columbia (2007–2008); and, the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Transportation (2009-2011).  In addition, Ms. Colvin served as the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources (1989-1994).

Ms. Colvin has received numerous awards and recognition for her managerial expertise and creativity, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women Award from the Daily Record (2005) and the Women of Achievement Award from Suburban Maryland Business and Professional Women (2005).  She has served on a variety of boards and commissions, including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Ms. Colvin earned her graduate and undergraduate degrees in business administration from Morgan State University.  Additionally, she completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University, the Maryland Leadership Program, and the Greater Baltimore Leadership Program. Ms. Colvin is from Maryland and currently resides in Anne Arundel County.  She has one son and six grandchildren.

 https://judgelondonsteverson.me/2013/01/14/who-will-president-obama-select-to-be-the-new-commissioner-of-the-social-security-administration/

Who Will President Obama Select To Be The New Commissioner Of The Social Security Administration?

Michael Astrue

Michael J. Astrue was sworn in as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) on February 12, 2007 for a six-year term that expires on January 19, 2013. President Barack Obama is expected to soon nominate a new Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Astrue was appointed by President George W. Bush. The White House is silent about who will take the helm at SSA.  The SSA faces voluminous backlogs and claimants may have to wait up to 5 years just to get a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Some extreme cases have taken more than 10 years from the date of filing a claim to get a final decision on whether they are entitled to disability retirement benefits.

Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue’s six-year term expires January 19, 2013. His successor must be confirmed by the Senate, in a process that Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, expects will take a couple of months from the hearings to a vote.

Michael Astrue was still Commissioner of Social Security on 25 January. His term ran out on January 19 but the Social Security Act says he can stay in his job until a successor is confirmed. He hasn’t resigned so he’s still Commissioner. The same is true for Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Colvin. The rumor had been that Astrue did not intend to stay on after his term ended.  So far, he’s proving that rumor wrong. Astrue does seem to be clearing items off his desk. Take a look at what he just sent over to the Office of Management and Budget. I wonder if he’s planning to send over his version of new mental impairment listings before leaving.

The SSA has more than 11,000 employees at its headquarters in Woodlawn, Maryland. It provides benefits to retirees, disabled Americans and the children of deceased workers. The SSA paid more than $778,000,000,000 (that is billion) in benefits to 56 million people. The SSA’s budget rivals that of the Department Of Defense.

Carolyn Colvin is Astrue’s Deputy, but she is not considered to be a serious contender to replace him. She was confirmed by the Senate two years ago. Her term also expires January 19, 2013. She is a former secretary of the state Department of Human Resources and served as special assistant to Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation.

One possibility that comes to mind is that there will never be an announcement of an Obama nominee for Commissioner of Social Security. Astrue will leave the job in the near future and Carolyn Colvin will become the Acting Commissioner for the rest of Obama’s term as President. Colvin as Acting Commissioner, unlike Astrue and unlike a nominated and confirmed Commissioner of Social Security, would be serving at the President’s will. If Colvin displeased the President, she could be removed from the job by Obama nominating and the Senate confirming a Commissioner. I think it is more than possible that the President has had his fill of an independent Social Security Commissioner and wants someone who is truly on his team. I have no inside information. This is just my speculation. Of course, this can’t happen if Astrue keeps hanging around.

(BIOGRAPHY of Catolyn Colvin)

QUOTE: On February 14, 2013, Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security.  Prior to this designation, she served as the Deputy Commissioner, having been confirmed by the United States Senate on December 22, 2010 as President Obama’s nominee.  In addition to her role as the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Ms. Colvin serves as a Trustee to the Social Security Board of Trustees.

Throughout her career, Ms. Colvin has managed programs that help people with their healthcare and financial needs.  She previously held key executive positions at Social Security Headquarters: Deputy Commissioner for Policy and External Affairs (1994–1996), Deputy Commissioner for Programs and Policy (1996–1998), and Deputy Commissioner for Operations (1998–2001).

Prior to returning to SSA, Ms. Colvin was the Director of Human Services for the District of Columbia (2001-2003); the Director of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (2003-2007); the Chief Executive Officer of AMERIGROUP Community Care of the District of Columbia (2007–2008); and, the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Transportation (2009-2011).  In addition, Ms. Colvin served as the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources (1989-1994).

Ms. Colvin has received numerous awards and recognition for her managerial expertise and creativity, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women Award from the Daily Record (2005) and the Women of Achievement Award from Suburban Maryland Business and Professional Women (2005).  She has served on a variety of boards and commissions, including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Ms. Colvin earned her graduate and undergraduate degrees in business administration from Morgan State University.  Additionally, she completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University, the Maryland Leadership Program, and the Greater Baltimore Leadership Program. Ms. Colvin is from Maryland and currently resides in Anne Arundel County.  She has one son and six grandchildren. UNQUOTE.

Nancy Altman, who helps lead two Social Security advocacy groups, has emerged as a potential contender. She has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ), a network of 1,400 ALJs who decide disability insurance claims. The endorsement of the AALJ is the kiss of death; so, she cannot really be considered a serious contender for the job.

Nevertheless, Judge Randall Frye, president of the AALJ, has  said the AALJ is backing Ms. Altman for Commissioner because of her expertise.

For her part, Ms. Altman has said “My goal would be to restore confidence in the agency and to let the workforce know how appreciative I am and the American people are for the work that is being done.”

One of the major challenges the next commissioner will confront is building administrative support to decrease the long backlogs in the disability insurance program. This is something that Commissioner Astrue was not able to accomplish despite all of the ALJs he was allowed to place on the federal pay roll and the increase in budget that he was granted. The new Commissioner will also be challenged to improve the quality of service that SSA employees are reputed to provide to the public.  Case workers and administrative staff members at SSA are notorious for their abrupt manners and surly attitudes resulting in a low level of public service. The Agency will be challenged to provide a higher level of service.

Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, was noted to remark that “This is an opportunity at the Social Security Administration to really take it to the next level, and it’s important to make sure it has the resources it needs”.

James Robinson Jr.

My choice for the next Commissioner is something of a dark horse. He is James Roosevelt Jr. He is a Health Care Insurance man and considering the controversy surrounding the implementation of ObamaCare, he would be a natural choice for President Obama for his 2nd term.

President Obama’s reelection lifted much of the cloud that hung over the health care industry in Massachusetts, where caregivers and insurers anticipated a push to repeal the national health care overhaul if Mitt Romney had become president. But Romney was not elected.

“This outcome provides an opportunity for greater cooperation and less contention,” said James Roosevelt Jr., chief executive of Tufts Health Plan.

But health care organizations are still seeking clarity on many features of ObamaCare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, many of which have not yet taken effect. The federal overhaul includes regulations requiring insurers to invest in new technology and funds for expanding Medicaid and revamping Medicare payments as the states press forward with their own efforts to rein in costs and build more integrated health care networks.

Obama’s victory “removes a layer of uncertainty for health plans, providers, and employers,” said Andrew Dreyfus, chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurer.

In 2012 James Robinson Jr wrote an op-ed with Robert L. Reynolds, a Republican and CEO of Putnam Investments,  where he advocates raising the Social Security retirement age at a brisker pace and cutting back the growth of benefits with a different Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Robinson wrote “.. we should accelerate the rise in Social Security’s full-benefit retirement age from age 67 to 68 by 2030 and then index the full benefit age for future generations to gains in longevity. Life expectancy past age 65 has risen nearly 50 percent since 1940, when Social Security first began regular monthly payments. That said, we should improve disability options for those engaged in physically demanding jobs. No one expects coal miners or telephone line crews to work into their late 60s.”

He went further to say “On the benefits side, we should change the way we calculate the cost-of-living adjustment for all beneficiaries, by utilizing a revised Consumer Price Index which most economists agree more accurately reflects the rate of inflation for the expenses most seniors incur. Such a change would curb the rate of increase in benefits for future generations of retirees […]”

Considering President Obama’s attitude and behavior with respect to the “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations I am betting he will select James Robinson Jr to be the next Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

This just in from former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

The press and public have understandably focused in recent weeks on high-profile appointments such as the secretaries of state, defense and treasury as President Barack Obama builds his second-term team. They also should pay close attention to the search for a man or woman to serve as commissioner of the Social Security Administration — a post central to the national welfare and, with a six-year term, an appointment that will continue into the next presidency.

The Social Security Administration, headquartered just outside Baltimore in Woodlawn, touches the lives and pocketbooks of nearly every American. With this cornerstone of our social compact under demographic pressure and political threat, the president’s choice for a successor is vitally important.

Washington is a land of partisan extremes these days, a place where compromise is an orphan and dealmakers are a rare sight. Inevitably, Social Security will again be a political football as Congress attempts to manage America’s fiscal challenges. As a veteran of more than a few policy debates and political fights — some of which didn’t end the way I’d have liked — I want suggest what I think are key job requirements for the new commissioner:

•The nominee should bring substantial managerial experience. The Social Security Administration has roughly 62,000 employees. The agency processes payments of $4.5 billion to 6 million recipients every month. It needs a strong CEO capable of running a large and complex organization that does high-stakes work.

•The nominee should bring considerable policy expertise. For more than 20 years, actuaries have battled, often very publicly, over the viability of Social Security’s funding mechanism. It would be profoundly foolish today to ignore the demographic challenges the retirement of baby boomers will pose to the system. The remedy should not be a Band-Aid, but structural reform for the long haul.

The next commissioner, unlike some predecessors, should bring to the job a detailed historical knowledge of Social Security — of decisions that have made the system stronger and of others that have weakened it.

•Diplomatic skills will be essential. The commissioner of Social Security will need to deal not only with criticism from his or her natural political opponents but also with substantial pressure from natural allies. A commissioner perceived as a zealot or out of touch with the private sector will have a hard time advancing arguments for a new structure of benefits or changes to Social Security’s long term funding.

•The commissioner of Social Security needs considerable fortitude. One of the most important aspects of the job is appearing before Congress (approximately four times a year, though the frequency can shift). For at least the next two years, that will mean confronting a Republican-controlled Congress whose leadership lives in fear of tea partiers whose rhetoric would suggest they’d like to see Social Security dismantled altogether. The next commissioner of Social Security will need the strength of will and command of facts necessary to stand toe-to-toe with well-prepared congressional foes.

•Finally, the next commissioner will have to be someone passionately dedicated to the principles that underlie the Social Security system and eloquent in articulating those principles.

The vast majority of Americans want a fair system that offers dignity to the elderly while preserving economic opportunity for current and future workers. They deserve a commissioner who can ensure Social Security operates properly, provide a vision for its long-term future and lead the fight to preserve it from political critics or demographic threats.

(Bill Bradley)

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Congress to SSA “Let’em Die. That’s Life, right?”

10,000 people died waiting for a disability decision in the past year. Will he be next?

WEBSTER COUNTY, Miss. – On the 597th day, the day he hoped everything would change, Joe Stewart woke early. He took 15 pills in a single swallow. He shaved his head. And then he got down to the business of the day, which was the business of every day, and that was waiting. He looked outside, and saw his mother there in a green sedan, engine running. So many months he had waited for this moment, and now it was here. Time for his Social Security disability hearing. Time to go.

Stewart, 55, set out on crutches, tottering out of his mobile home and down a metal ramp he’d laid when stairs became too much. “I’m sweating my ass off,” he said, getting into his mother’s car, his long-sleeved dress shirt hanging open. He tilted the passenger seat all the way down, placed a pillow at the small of his back and, groaning and wincing, settled in as best he could.

“Did they say long-sleeved?” asked his mother, Jean Bingham, 73.

“It was the only decent shirt I had!” he said.

He knew only what he’d been told by his lawyer, who wanted to see him again before the hearing, and that was not to wear a T-shirt and to bring along a list of medications he uses to treat the pains that are all he has to show for a lifetime spent installing vinyl siding throughout Webster County. Neurontin for nerve pain. Baclofen for muscle spasms. Trazodone for depression. Hydroxyzine and Buspirone for anxiety, a condition that seemed to worsen each day his wait stretched into the next.

Stewart had first applied for federal disability benefits on May 21, 2015. The application was denied, and so was his appeal. When he appealed the second rejection, he went to the back of one of the federal government’s biggest backlogs, where 1.1 million disability claimants wait for one of some 1,600 Social Security administrative law judges to decide whether they deserve a monthly payment and Medicare or Medicaid. “A death sentence” is how Stewart, who has no health insurance, has come to think of another denial.

For other applicants, the wait itself may be enough to accomplish that. In the past two years, 18,701 people have died while waiting for a judge’s decision, increasing 15 percent from 8,699 deaths in fiscal 2016 to 10,002 deaths in fiscal 2017, according to preliminary federal data obtained by The Washington Post. The rising death toll coincides with a surge in the length of time people must wait for a disposition, which swelled from a national average of 353 days in 2012 to a record high of 596 this past summer.

The simplest explanation is that there isn’t enough money. The Social Security Administration’s budget has been roughly stagnant since 2010, while the number of people receiving retirement and disability benefits has risen by more than 7 million, despite a slight decline in the disability rolls beginning in 2015 as some beneficiaries reached retirement age.

The more complicated explanation, however, also includes fewer supporting staff members helping judges. A recession that increased the number of applications and appeals. A new regulation that requires additional medical evidence, lengthening the files judges have to read. And heightened scrutiny in the aftermath of a 2011 scandal in Huntington, W.Va., where one judge, who approved nearly everyone who came before him, was later convicted of taking $600,000 in bribes. Since then, according to a September report by the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, the average judge has gone from deciding 12 cases every week to fewer than 10, a relatively small slowdown that, spread across hundreds of weeks and hundreds of judges, has contributed to the crushing backlog.

                                                                                          

     (Above, Left, see AALJ President, ALJ Marilyn Zahm and ALJ Randy Frye, Past President.)

“I know that people will die waiting,” said Judge Marilyn Zahm, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ). “This is the reflection of our priorities as an American people. We have decided it’s better for people to die than to adequately fund this program. . . . Will this get worse? Will the number of people who die double?”

While lengthy everywhere, the wait times have stretched longer still in some places, such as in Miami, where people wait an average of 759 days, and Long Island, where the wait is 720 days, and northern Mississippi, where the average is 612 days, and where Stewart couldn’t stop shaking in his car seat.

“My shirt is undone, I ain’t going to be able to put it in my pants. My pants are too tight,” he said, rummaging through a red bag filled with his medications, realizing he had forgotten to bring something to eat.

“You didn’t eat no breakfast?” his mother asked.

“I ain’t have the time!” he said.

He hadn’t felt pressure like this in years – not since he last worked in April 2015, and his world was reduced to food stamps, credit cards and the confines of a single-wide trailer, parked along a country road that few cars go down. He had thought about this day ever since. What would the judge ask him? Would he believe him? Or would he think he was lying, too lazy to work? Would he finally get an answer, or would the wait continue?

Stewart took an anxiety pill and looked at the car’s speedometer.

“Never going to get me there in time,” he told his mother as she steered through the remote county of hills and pine where nearly 1 in 5 working-age adults receive either Supplemental Security Income, for the disabled poor, or Social Security Disability Insurance, for disabled workers.

He fidgeted with the air conditioning vents, opening them up.

“I’m going from chills to hot spells,” he said. “I’ve got hot spells now.”

He leaned back.

“I’m getting cool.”

Then: “I’m sweating.”

Then: “I’m getting worse now.”

For most of his life, Stewart had believed things could only get better. He had been raised with the conviction that a man was only as good as what he could accomplish with his hands, and so he had always felt good, because he could do so much with his. After high school, he started out building furniture. Then he worked as a carpenter. But vinyl siding was what he loved completely. Cutting the metal. Measuring it out. Hauling it in his truck and completing a job worth being proud of, worth attaching his name to, and that was a promise he made to every customer after opening his company, Premium Siding, 10 years ago.

At the time, the county was in the midst of a steady and precipitous decline, accelerated by a recession that never seemed to end, and Premium Siding’s profits were barely enough for Stewart to survive on, let alone pay for health insurance. So already carrying two decades of work injuries – falling off ladders, getting shocked by hot wires – he would sometimes go to a community clinic that charged $35 per visit. Or more likely, he’d use a heating pad and try to think about anything but pain, until one day in the summer of 2013, when pain became nearly the only thing he could ever think about.

He can’t remember what he tried to pick up. He remembers only that he had been out at a work site, lifting and cutting 50-pound coils of metal. He remembers reaching for something that had barely weighed anything. He remembers the sharp, immediate pain, the sudden realization that his back might never be the same, and that, for everything he would ultimately lose, he had never even touched whatever it was he had reached for. The doctor would later say he had a compressed vertebra and a pinched nerve in his lower spine. But in that moment, it felt more stabbed than pinched – “vicious, terrible stabbing” – and he went home, to his bed, which was where he was, four years later, on another day of waiting, when an alarm went off.

Nine in the morning. Time for his medication. He turned on the lights – three bare bulbs – and saw again what his life had become, in this trailer he allowed no one to enter, not even his mother. He stumbled past the leather furniture that hadn’t been sat on since he hurt his back, and the NASCAR toy cars he carefully collected years ago, covered in a thick film of dust along one wall, and the kitchen countertop obscured by months of trash.

“Let’s just get it over with,” he said, looking at his bottles of medicine.

The pills made him drowsy, and he went to the only place he could still sit. The Ab Lounge, an exercise chair he had bought to strengthen his lower back but now used because it could recline just so, was where he conducted his affairs. There were empty peanut jars nearby, a stack of debts and a remote control, which he picked up. A science-fiction show came on, and he tried not to think about the bankruptcy papers he would soon need to file. Or the yard out back he could no longer tend to and had to poison. Or the utter sameness of his life, every day so much like the one before, that his memory felt increasingly blurred. Or that just about the only time his phone rang anymore, as it did at this moment, was when a bill collector called.

“Yeah? Okay,” he said into the phone, realizing it was only his mother, who was planning to use her Social Security check to buy him more medicine later that day. “That will work.”

He hung up and shook his head, unable to handle the shame of it anymore. He had promised himself that if he was denied again, he’d no longer accept his mother’s help. He’d let his pills run out, and his trailer go dark, and start drinking again. So much in his life depended on others now, from the television his brother had helped pay for, to the groceries delivered by his mother, who also took him wherever he needed to go, including on this morning to see his lawyer before his Social Security disability hearing.

“I just need silence,” he said, in the car, hoping that would calm him.

“I’m not used to all of this, Joe!” she said, giving him a weary look.

“I need – I need silence.”

The car went quiet, and Stewart waited for the anxiety medicine to take hold. For his hands to stop quivering. For the car to carry him past all of the payday loan shops and empty storefronts of Webster County to an office belonging to a lawyer who he believed could help him.

“Hugh Gibson Law, this is Samantha, can I help you?” the receptionist was saying to another caller.

On the other side of the counter, sitting on a thick-cushioned couch in the waiting area, was a thin man with gaunt features who grimaced whenever he shifted in his seat. Every now and again, someone at the office would ask him if he needed anything.

Water? Something to eat? Want to lie down?

The man tightened his grip on his cane.

“I want someone to shoot me,” he finally said.

“Hugh Gibson Law,” the receptionist said to another caller.

A few minutes later, Gibson, the most prolific Social Security disability lawyer in Webster County, a tall, garrulous 71-year-old who himself walks with a limp and a cane, came into the waiting room, glanced at the man on the couch and headed into the back of the office. Gibson had spent years witnessing the disintegration of people like him, marooned in a disability adjudication system that he still believed could be a force for good, despite everything. He started taking disability cases four decades ago, when claims in Webster County predominantly involved illnesses and car accidents. But then the factories that once powered the county’s economy closed, and more unemployed workers started applying, and the wait became longer and longer.

When potential clients now ask about applying for disability, Gibson tells them that it could be two years minimum before they get a judge’s decision, and that they can’t work while they wait if they want to be approved. They usually lose the car first, then the house. Next comes bankruptcy. Stresses accrue, marriages fracture, pains and illnesses mount, and some die right before their hearings, when the wait is worst, and when Gibson brings clients into his office to prepare one final time, clients like the thin man with the cane, Joey Sims, 36, now seated in front of him.

“Does he have a good case?” Gibson asked his assistant.

“He hasn’t been to the doctor but twice this year,” she said.

“A semi-idiot then,” Gibson sighed, knowing that the severity of a medical condition mattered only so much as what was documented, and not enough was documented here.

“If I had money to go see the doctors, then I wouldn’t need help,” Sims said, exasperated.

“Yeah, well, we have serious things to deal with to get you approved,” Gibson said, glowering, because it seemed that way with every case. If clients weren’t too young, then often there were drugs in their pasts. Or they’d return to the job after an injury and, even if they quit soon after, it would look to a judge like they could still work.

“I’ll do whatever you need me to do,” Sims pleaded, and Gibson began a routine he performs for all of his clients, the same one he did again the next day for an anguished woman in a back brace.

“You can’t just go in there and be an idiot,” he told her.

“They don’t pay liars,” he told her.

“See that shirt you got on? Don’t wear that,” he told her.

Gibson knew how terrible he must sound sometimes, hollering at clients, cutting them off, ordering them around, but he also knew what could happen if he didn’t. They could say something to a judge that would be innocuous in other circumstances – that they could drive, or mow grass – but could lead to a quick denial, which had been happening more often, as the disability approval rate among judges nationwide dropped from 73 percent in 2008 to 55 percent last year.

There were increasingly days when Gibson wondered whether it was time to scale back. After all, he was paid only if his clients won. Maybe the other lawyers were right, some cases just couldn’t be won. And that was how he was quietly beginning to feel about Stewart.

Outside Gibson’s office, Stewart held a stack of medical papers and, disoriented, tried to listen as his mother asked question after question.

“Are you taking those in there?” she asked of the documents.

“How long is this going to take?” she asked.

“Are you going to be okay?” she asked.

“Remind me to tie my shoes,” was all he managed to say, going inside the law office, shoelaces flopping this way and that. He took a seat in a back room, head full of doubts. If he couldn’t focus well enough to answer his mother’s questions, how was he going to answer the judge’s?

“Joe,” Gibson said, riffling through all 169 pages of his medical file. “Let’s go over what you do all day.”

Stewart didn’t say anything. His mouth was dry. He was still wearing sunglasses he’d forgotten to take off.

“What time do you get up?” Gibson asked after a moment.

“Around nine,” Stewart said.

Gibson cringed.

“How many of [your medications] make you lightheaded?” came another question.

“Quite a few,” Stewart said. “About half.”

Another bad look came over Gibson’s face. He tapped his pen against the folder.

“Make no mistake, if you don’t do this well, you’re going to lose,” he said slowly. “You’ve got to speak up and tell him what is what and not be vague. ‘Sometimes.’ ‘A little while.’ ‘A little bit.’ ‘Not very much.’ ‘A whole lot.’ All those words. They don’t mean anything. They don’t mean anything. You might as well just open your mouth and close it. Because nothing comes out worse than those vague words. And I just want to grab people and slap them – wake up! You can’t just say ‘sometimes’ with a judge!”

“Lord, mercy,” Gibson said, telling Stewart that he could not have drawn a stricter judge. James Prothro had the 31st lowest approval rating among Social Security administrative law judges, according to a Washington Post analysis of every judge’s disposition record between January 2010 and April 2017. During that period, Prothro decided 2,610 cases, approving 27 percent of them.

Later, Stewart would get angry. He would think about all of the people he had seen in Webster County receiving benefits whose disabilities he considered milder than his, and wonder how they had gotten them, and why everything had to be so difficult for him. But at that moment he just nodded slowly, wanting to absorb everything Gibson said – stand to show he couldn’t sit for long; never say, “I don’t know” – until Gibson rose from his seat.

“You have a slim shot,” he said. “People sitting around the house, watching TV all day, they’re not used to talking, and I understand that. But I have to get you to talk. Tell the judge the things the judge needs to know. Can you do that, Joe?”

And then Stewart was back in the car, and he was rummaging for his anxiety medicine, and he was saying, “I need to put it in my pocket so I can remember to take it,” and he was going into a courtroom, and the door behind him was closing, and it was locking, and he was trying to stay calm.

Five-hundred and ninety-seven days.

One-hundred and sixty-nine pages of medical evidence.

One hearing.

How to condense so many years of physical deterioration, so many days of waiting, into one hearing? How to convince someone of pain, when no one can see it? How to remember to say everything that needed saying – the pills taken, the number of pounds that can be lifted, the distance that can be walked, the falls, the different doctors and their names?

So Stewart did his best to follow Gibson’s directions. He carried his back pillow into the courtroom. He stood when he felt pain. He was specific. He said, “burning in the chest.” He said, “I went to see my chiropractor, but they wanted $60, so I haven’t been back.” He said, “My mother, she’s tired of driving me around; she has other things to do.”

And he tried to look at the judge, to express with his eyes what he couldn’t with words, but the judge wasn’t in the room at all. He was sitting in front of a camera in another courtroom 65 miles away in another Social Security Administration building in Tupelo, Mississippi part of a government policy to work down the backlog by holding some disability hearings by video-tele-conference. Stewart heard the disembodied voice of someone whom Gibson called a “vocational expert,” whose role it was to use, among other sources, the government’s list of possible jobs, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, last updated in 1991, to discern whether there was any work someone like him could do anywhere in the United States, regardless of pay, distance from his house, or whether he would be hired.

And then an hour had passed, and the hearing was over, and Gibson was saying, “Thank you, your honor.” Stewart, feeling dazed and unsure whether that was really it, sat for a moment, until he saw everyone else was standing. He got up. He collected his crutches and walked outside with Gibson, who was going on and on about the judge.

“One lawyer – a good lawyer – they had 13 cases with him, and they didn’t win a one,” he said. “Not a one.”

“Whether or not he’s going to pay you, I do not know,” he said.

“So we’ll wait and see. . . . You might not get a decision until February.” And: “It may be six months.”

Gibson said something about errands he had to run, shook Stewart’s hand and got into his bright red truck. And Stewart, now caught in another backlog of people awaiting a disposition after the hearing – which has doubled in the last year, from 35,000 claimants to 70,000 – watched him drive off, then saw his mother. She was in her car, waving at him to move it, so he climbed in and reclined the seat until he was nearly supine.

“Can I ask you a question?” said his mother, who had sat outside the courtroom but overheard something about a videoconference. “Was he in there?”

“Who?” Stewart asked.

The judge.

“No, he was on TV,” he said, and she looked confused.

“Well, I’m relieved it’s over,” she finally said.

“It ain’t over,” he responded, and there was nothing else to say, so on they went to Webster County, through the endless rows of tall pines, past the houses Stewart had once worked on, stopping at his trailer. “There’s another day,” his mother said and pulled away, and he was alone again. The trailer was dark inside. He took his afternoon medication. He sat in his Ab Lounge. The television came on. The pills started to do their work. The 597th day was over, and the only thing left to do was to wait for the 598th to begin.

(By  , November 21, 2017)

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Judge London Steverson, This Is Your Life

 https://www.amazon.com/My-Life-Coast-Guard-Tiger-ebook/dp/B077G9BS5R/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Judge London Steverson has written the story of his life. Trying to write a book about my life is like trying to describe the landscape by looking out the window of a moving train. The events continue to unfold faster than one can describe them. My life is a work in progress. For this reason I have decided to look at my life in phases that have a clearly defined beginning and an end. In this book I intend to describe that part of my life that was shaped by my involvement in the Martial Arts. 

https://www.amazon.com/Judge-London-Steverson/e/B006WQKFJM


IN A NUT SHELL 
I, London Eugene Livingston Steverson retired from the United States Coast Guard in 1988 as a Lieutenant Commander (LCDR). Later, I retired from the Social Security Administration (SSA) as the Senior Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the Office of Disability Appeals and Review (ODAR) Downey, California.
In 1964, I was one of the first two African Americans to receive an Appointment as a Cadet to the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. I graduated in 1968. After two years at sea on an Icebreaker, the USCGC Glacier (WAGB-4), and another two years as a Search and Rescue Operations Officer in the 17th Coast Guard District Juneau, Alaska, I was appointed Chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section in the Office of Personnel at Coast Guard Headquarters, 7th and D Street, SW, in Washington, DC. My primary duty was to recruit Black High School graduates for the Coast Guard Academy. This was my passion, so I set about this in a most vigorous manner.
I have written several books concerning Military Justice, famous Courts-martial Cases, and Social Security Disability Determination Cases. I am a retired member of the New York State Bar Association, The Association of The Bar of The City of New York, and The Tennessee Bar Associations.
A Presidential Executive Order issued by President Harry Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948, but the military academies lagged far behind in officer recruiting.
President John F. Kennedy specifically challenged the Coast Guard Academy to increase appointments to qualified Black American high school students.
I was one of the first Black High School students to be offered such an appointment in 1964. I had a Black classmate from New Jersey, Kenny Boyd. We would become known as “The Kennedy Cadets”, because the pressure to recruit us originated with President John F. Kennedy.
On June 4, 1968, I graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and a commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
My first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July 1968 I reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Glacier (WAGB-4), an icebreaker operating under the control of the U.S. Navy. I served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. I traveled to Antarctica during two patrols from July 1968 to August 1969, supporting the research operations of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Research Project in and around McMurdo Station.
In 1974, while still an active duty member of the Coast Guard, I entered The National Law Center of The George Washington University. I graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctor of Laws Degree.
I worked as a Law Specialist in the 12th Coast Guard District Office, San Francisco, California and as an Assistant U. S. Attorney for the collection of Civil Penalties under the Federal Boating Safety Act from 1979 to 1982. As Assistant District Legal Officer, I was required to defend as well as prosecute military members who had been charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Occasionally I was asked to represent other officers in administrative actions involving sexual harassment and discrimination. One such case was the Case of Christine D. Balboni . 

 Ensign (ENS) Balboni was one of the first female graduates of the Academy, Class of 1981. She filed the first case of Sexual Harassment case in the military.

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United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Represented Cadet Webster Smith

(Above Ronald C. Machen, a Partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Door, was the Appellate Defense Counsel for Coast Guard Academy Cadet Webster Smith, the first cadet to be punished by court-martial at the Coast Guard Academy in 2006. Cadet Webster Smith is an African American Black.)

 

 

 

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Picking The Right Lawyer For Coast Guard Cadets or The Social Security Administration Is Easy If You Know Where To Look

 

 

Gail Ennis, a Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr securities litigation partner nominated for inspector general at the Social Security Administration, reported earning $2 million in partnership income, according to newly disclosed ethics documents.

Ennis, a Wilmer partner in Washington since 2007, was nominated on Oct. 10. Her nomination is pending in the U.S. Senate. Ennis, according to her law firm bio, focuses on internal investigations of accounting conduct. A Wilmer lawyer since 1998, she has represented clients at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her compensation report covers income from last year up until the filing of the disclosure.

Ennis identified her anticipated partnership share at $250,000 to $500,000. She said she would receive a pro rata partnership share based on the value of her interests for work performed this year, up until her withdrawal from the firm, according to the “WilmerHale LLP Partnership Fixed Fee Agreement for Participating Equity Partners.” Ennis said she would receive a refund from her capital account, estimated at $500,000 to $1 million. She was not immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

Ennis said she will be eligible for an early retirement benefit from Wilmer. Ennis wrote in her ethics agreement: “The firm will pay the benefit to me annually, in monthly installments, for seven years following my separation from the firm. The amount will not exceed $175,000 annually, but may decrease should the firm not achieve certain income targets.”

Ennis identified four clients in her financial disclosure: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citadel LLC and HSBC Private Bank SA. She pledged not to participate in any matters involving those clients for one year, unless she first obtains a waiver.

The Social Security Administration’s inspector general is responsible for monitoring the agency’s programs and operations for fraud, waste and abuse, along with notifying the agency and Congress of problems and recommending corrective actions.

The inspector general oversees more than 500 auditors, attorneys and investigators. Patrick O’Carroll Jr. had served as the agency’s inspector general for more than a decade. Gale Stallworth Stone has been serving as the acting inspector at the agency.

This year, the inspector general’s office sent out a warning about a nationwide telephone “imposter phishing” scheme. “Our attorneys have worked closely with the internet search-engine industry to get in front of this issue, and their efforts resulted in a technology company developing a public service notice for its search engine,” the agency said in a semiannual report to Congress.

The inspector’s office has also expanded partnerships with states to sniff out fraud in federal benefits programs.

 

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Fugitive Attorney Eric Conn Faces Life Imprisonment In Social Security Benefits Fraud Case

Employee allegedly helped fugitive lawyer Eric Conn plot his escape for a year

Read more

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SSA Announces 2% COLA Increase in 2018.

Social Security checks to be 2% bigger in 2018.

Average monthly check will go up $27

 

NEW YORK  – Millions of Americans will get a boost to their Social Security checks next year.

The government announced a 2 percent increase to Social Security Benefits October 13. The bigger checks aim to help offset rising prices.

The average monthly check is estimated to increase to $1,404 in January — a $27 increase from $1,377 a month.

Millions of Americans rely on Social Security to help make ends meet, and many have been struggling in the face of higher prices on essentials like health care, rent and food. Not all of the recipients are retired workers — many are people with disabilities, or surviving spouses and children.

The 2 percent increase is the highest since 2012 when retirees got a 3.6 percent raise.

At the start of 2017, recipients saw an increase of just 0.3 percent.

In 2016, there was no increase. Over the summer, the Social Security trustees had projected a 2.2 percent increase in benefits.

Around 62 million Americans will receive around $955 billion in Social Security benefits this year, according to the Social Security Administration.

The annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) was introduced in 1975 and is based on increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). CPI-W tracks how much consumers pay for goods and services.

But some argue the increase is not enough to cover rising prices.

“For the tens of millions of families who depend on Social Security for all or most of their retirement income, this cost of living increase may not adequately cover expenses that rise faster than inflation including prescription drug, utility and housing costs,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins.

The Social Security Administration also announced the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax will increase to $128,700 from $127,200.

(  VASEL, K., CNN Money, 13Oct2017)

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