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Disability Law News - December 2014


Articles in this Issue

SSA Again Pays Small COLA for 2015
December 22, 2014
The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a modest 1.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2015. Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 64 million Americans will see a slight increase. Read More

Federal Student Loan Disability Discharges Made Easier
December 22, 2014
Federal student loans may be collected out of Social Security benefits. An increasing number of Social Security disability recipients have student loan debts collected out of their benefits. Federal student loan debtors can qualify, however, for a “total and permanent disability” discharge of their debts. Read More

Are Veterans' Choice Cards Really a Choice?
December 22, 2014
Starting in November, and continuing in the first weeks of December, the Veterans Affairs Department began mailing out “Choice Cards,” which allow eligible veterans to seek and obtain care outside the VA hospital network if, for example, they face long waits for VA care or live far away from the closest VA clinic. Read More

How Goes NYS's Takeover of SSP?
December 22, 2014
As reported in the last DAP news, New York State took over administration of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) State Supplement Program (SSP) on October 1, 2014. Read More

OIG Studies "Outlier" ALJs
December 22, 2014
At the request of Congress, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) identified administrative law judges (ALJs) who had issued 700 or more dispositions and had allowance rates of 85 percent or higher in any two fiscal years since 2007. The OIG identified 44 ALJs - or about four percent of total ALJs - who met the “outlier” criteria. Read More

Final Rules Revise Listing
December 22, 2014
SSA issued final rules revising the criteria for Listings 6 and 106, genitourinary disorders, effective December 9, 2014. Proposed changes were published on February 4, 2013. SSA indicates it made some changes in the final rules, compared to the proposed rules, because of comments received. The changes, however, appear to be minimal. Read More

EM Sets Waiver Rules
December 22, 2014
The Social Security Administration has issued a new Emergency Message (EM) that allows SSA to adopt a prior waiver determination if 1) the waiver was properly denied on the basis of fault and 2) the determinative issues, facts, and evidence presented are the same as before. Read More

Exclusions of German Reparations POMS Updated
December 22, 2014
Under a 1994 law, Holocaust compensation payments made to individuals based on their status as victims of Nazi persecution are excluded from being counted as income and resources in determining both eligibility for and the amount of benefits to be provided under any federally funded program based on financial need. Read More

SSA Promulgates POMS on Transferable Skills
December 22, 2014
Does your client have skills that could be transferrable to another skilled or semi-skilled job? Does s/he really have skills, or are they merely traits? Yet another one of those squirrely areas that we may have to confront in hearings with vocational experts. Read More

SSA Publishes Helpful Administrative Message
December 22, 2014
SSA has issued an Administrative Message (AM) that deals primarily with the use of the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, particularly Rule 204.00. Read More

Promised Foreclosure POMS Released
December 22, 2014
In the March 2014 edition of this newsletter, we reported that AM (Administrative Message) 9060, which provides guidance on Resource and In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) evaluations for homes in foreclosure, had been extended pending promulgation of POMS. Read More

December 22, 2014
With Social Security processing an increasing numbers of Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs), there are bound to be increasing problems with that processing. One issue that advocates have confronted over the years involves the reinstatement of benefits pending appeal after a CDR case has been remanded by the Appeals Council or Federal Court. Read More

Hurry Up and Wait, Again!
December 22, 2014
Some new data about the back logs at SSA, effective for FY 2014, was issued at an October 29, 2014 budget briefing by SSA Associate Commissioner, Office of Budget, Bonnie Kind. Read More

Third Circuit Limits VE Challenges
December 22, 2014
At the other end of the spectrum from Judge Posner’s decision in Herrmann , the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently upheld a decision of the Commissioner in Zirnsak v. Colvin, 2014 WL 6891226 (Dec. 9, 2014, 3d Cir.). Although the summary order has no precedential value either in the Third or Second Circuits, it serves a cautionary tale for advocates struggling with challenging vocational testimony. Read More

Report and Recommendation Rejected, Plaintiff Prevails
December 22, 2014
Congratulations to Cynthia Eyler of Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York (LASNNY), Canton office, for getting a remand for her client in Wilson v. Colvin, 2014 WL 4826787 (N.D.N.Y. September 29, 2014). This remand came after Cindy filed objections to the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation (R&R) that affirmed the Commissioner’s decision. Read More

Multiple Gaps in the Record Lead to Remand
December 22, 2014
In another great case coming out of LASNNY’s Canton office, Lyons v. Colvin, 2014 WL 4826789 (N.D.N.Y. September 29, 2014), the District Court ordered a remand to determine whether the Plaintiff had satisfied the requirements of Listing 12.05. Victoria Esposito represented the plaintiff in this case. Read More

Another Word to the Wise...
December 22, 2014
What happens when you forget the little things like letting the Social Security Administration know of your appointment to the case or having the client sign a request? The case of Koegel v. Colvin, 2014 WL 5323951 (N.D.N.Y. October 17, 2014), is another cautionary tale of what happens when procedure is not followed, and the little things are left out. Read More

More Post-Windsor POMS Issued
December 22, 2014
An edition of this newsletter would not be complete without an update on SSA’s evolving instructions on implementing United States v. Windsor, –– U.S. ––, 133 S.Ct. 2675, 2695, 186 L.Ed.2d 808 (2013)—the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down Section 3 of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). Read More

Web News - December 2014
December 22, 2014
Legal Aid Federal Practice Manual Available; New York State Updates Website; LSNYC Government Benefits Hotline Debuts; 2015 Pickle Amendment Chart Issued; New Housing Data Source Read More

CFPB Provides Guidance to Avoid Disability Income Discrimination
December 22, 2014
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued a bulletin reminding lenders that requiring unnecessary documentation from consumers who receive Social Security disability income may raise fair lending risk. The bulletin calls attention to standards and guidelines that may help lenders comply with the law, and help ensure that recipients of Social Security disability income receive fair and equal access to credit.  Read More

GAO and OIG Focus on Fraud
December 22, 2014
Both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have issued reports dealing with SSA’s efforts to combat fraud—again at the behest of Congress. Read More

End Note - December 2014
How Dirty is Your Office?
December 22, 2014
It’s that time of year when we share more than season’s greetings and holiday cheer with our coworkers. We also share our germs - and it turns out that is pretty hard to avoid doing so. According to an article in the September 30, 2014 Wall Street Journal, those nasty germs lurk almost everywhere and can travel quickly. Read More

Magistrate Remands for Calculation of Benefits
December 22, 2014
It is rare for a case to be remanded for the purpose of calculating benefits. But sometimes the Commissioner’s error is so obvious that the Court will find that the evidence persuasively establishes disability. Read More

Judge Posner Strikes Again
December 22, 2014
The Seventh Circuit, and Judge Posner in particular, continued its pattern of criticizing the government’s bases for denying Social Security benefits. Read More

Bulletin Board
September 27, 2010
The "Bulletin Board" contains information about recent disability decisions from the United States Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Read More

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