I received this gem from an SSA insider, with the insider's editorial comments in brackets.

 

MEMORANDUM

Refer To: ACL 13-1175

     
   

Date:

August 8, 2013

       

To:

All Hearing Office Personnel

From:

Debra Bice /s/

Chief Administrative Law Judge

Subject:

Providing Representative Referrals to Unrepresented Claimants– REMINDER

 

20 CFR 404.1706 and 416.1506 require that ALJs notify unrepresented claimants of their right to, and options for, obtaining a representative (See also HALLEX I-1-1-3 and POMS GN 03910.030).  However, any information furnished must be consistent with the Social Security Administration [newly announced] policy of neither encouraging nor discouraging representation.  ODAR personnel should not suggest or recommend that a claimant obtain representation. [A judge now is not allowed to tell a claimant that the case presents complex problems of fact or law that will weigh against him.  A judge may not advise the claimant that his chances of success are increased very significantly, recently by better than 50 %, by having representation.]

 

A representation referral list is the only referral information that may be provided to claimants. ODAR personnel may not recommend any specific attorney, firm, or organization. HALLEX I-1-1-3 requires that the hearing office (HO) must have available and distribute one or more lists of representative referral services and of legal service organizations provided by the field offices (FO) serviced by the HO. In addition, these lists must meet the following criteria:

 

  • any organization included on the list must indicate a willingness to appear on the list, be located in or close to the HO service area, or be able to refer a claimant to a participating service provider located in or close to the HO service area, and not make a profit from the referral service;

  • no individual person (i.e., attorney or non-attorney) or any for-profit firm or organization will appear on the list; and

  • the list will show the organizations that provide free legal services separately from the organizations that charge fees for services or make referrals to service providers who charge fees. Each subcategory will show the organizations in alphabetical order. POMS GN 03910.030A.3.

 

Please contact your regional office with questions.  The staff contact for regional inquiries is Dean Syrjanen, Attorney Adviser, who can be reached at 703-605-7355

 

cc:    Associate Chief Administrative Law Judges

         Regional Chief Administrative Law Judges

         Regional Office Management Teams

         Hearing Office Management Teams

 

 The new "intellectual disability" Listing is here:  

https://federalregister.gov/a/2013-18552


 

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

20 CFR Parts 404 and 416

[Docket No. SSA–2012–0066]

RIN 0960–AH52

Change in Terminology: ‘‘Mental Retardation’’ to ‘‘Intellectual Disability

AGENCY: Social Security Administration

ACTION: Final rule.

SUMMARY: This final rule adopts, without change, the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) we published in thFederal Register on January 28, 2013. We are replacing the term ‘‘mental retardation’’ with ‘‘intellectual disability’’ in our Listing of Impairment(listings) that we use to evaluate claims involving mental disorders in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act) and in other appropriate sections of our rules.

 

PDF download Federal Register: tinyurl.com/mnfv5mz

 

You may have noticed that as the House continues to hammer away, often wrongly, at the Disaiblity program and people with disabilities, a few people are responding.  Here is an example of such a good response:

 

"The recent AP article, “House investigators: Social Security lax in judging disability claims,” was misleading. The central claim — that Social Security is “lax” in evaluating disability — is clearly contradicted by the facts.

As an advocate for people with disabilities, I know how strict the disability criteria are. Most people who apply are denied, and only about 40 percent are awarded benefits — even after all stages of appeal. Many beneficiaries are terminally ill — about one in five male and one in six female beneficiaries die within five years of receiving benefits. Literally every day, I see people with significant disabilities who have been denied benefits; many die of the supposedly non-disabling impairments while waiting for a “fair” hearing.

The only intelligent and valid point made by the article is that the review of cases of people already found disabled is woefully under-funded. So are the programs that help disabled people get back into the workforce. Demographic changes are the primary reason for the increase in the number of claims — baby boomers are at the age when severe disability most frequently strikes and from which recovery is most limited.

No one knows when disability or illness will strike. That’s why Social Security Disability Insurance is an important part of our nation’s safety net. Instead of tearing down this vital program with myths and rumors, let’s focus instead on strengthening it for current and future generations.

Don Hanrahan

Letter: SSDI an essential safety net - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register http://www.sj-r.com/opinions/x946748216/Letter-SSDI-an-essential-safety-net

 

 

From NOSSCR:

 

SSA Issues Proposed Regulations on Video Hearings

Comments due August 26  

                  

To "protect the integrity of our programs and preserve limited resources," SSA has issued proposed regulations that would provide notice of a video hearing before a case is scheduled and/or assigned to an ALJ. 78 Fed. Reg. 38610 (June 27, 2013). Available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-06-27/pdf/2013-14894.pdf. Comments are due no later than August 26, 2013. A more detailed article about the proposed revisions will appear in the June 2013 NOSSCR Social Security Forum.

 

The proposed change would notify the claimant prior to scheduling a hearing that the hearing may be held by video teleconferencing (VTC). The claimant would have 30 days from the date this notice is received (this is not the official "notice of hearing) to object to the VTC hearing. If the objection is "timely," an in-person hearing will be scheduled. However, there is a "limited exception" if the claimant moves while the request for hearing is pending. In that case, "we [SSA] will determine whether a claimant will appear in person or by [VTC]." Why this exception to the rule? The preface states:

 

This limited exception to the rule would allow us to protect the integrity of our programs while providing us with the flexibility to transfer cases when there is a legitimate change in residence and such a transfer would allow us to process the case more efficiently.

 

Other important changes proposed include:

  •     Setting a time limit for objecting to the time or place of the hearing. The claimant must notify SSA "at the earliest possible opportunity" but no later than 5 days before the hearing date or, if earlier, within 30 days after receipt of the notice of hearing. The ALJ will decide if "good cause" applies to reschedule. Some "minor revisions" are proposed for "good cause" to reschedule, e.g., removal of the example that the claimant lives closer to another hearing site [current 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.936(f)(6) and 416.1436(f)(6).
  •     Telephone hearings. The ALJ would be able to schedule a telephone hearing when (1) an in-person appearance is not possible, e.g., the claimant is incarcerated and VTC is not available at the facility; or (2) the ALJ determines, on his own or at the claimant's request, that "extraordinary circumstances" prevent the claimant from appearing in person or by VTC.


Nancy G. Shor
Executive Directo

NOSSCR