Friday, September 13, 2013
From the good folks at the National Senior Citizens Law Center, we have a webinar, providing an update on their victory in Clark v. Astrue. That's the class action case where NSCLC was successful in challenging the summary suspension of Social Security or other benefits for individuals with pending arrests warrants or other criminal record entries.
The free NSCLC/NCLC on-line program takes place on September 25, 2013, at 2 p.m. EDT. Details, including registration, available on the NSCLC website: "Fugitive Felons: Clark v. Astrue Implementation for SSI, Social Security & Similar Provisions in Other Benefit Programs."
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
We are seeing a lot of information coming out from the federal government as a result of the Windsor ruling. Most recently, a colleague sent me a link from the IRS site with Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Same-Sex Couples (last updated July 2, 2013). Among the 8 FAQ (in no particular order) are: "Can same-sex partners who are legally married for state law purposes file federal tax returns using a married filing jointly or married filing separately status?"; "Can a taxpayer use the head-of-household filing status if the taxpayer’s only dependent is his or her same-sex partner?"; and "If a taxpayer adopts the child of his or her same-sex partner as a second parent or co-parent, may the taxpayer (“adopting parent”) claim the adoption credit for the qualifying adoption expenses he or she pays or incurs to adopt the child?".
Meanwhile, over at Social Security, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin issued a statement on August 9th "that Social Security is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due." SSA offers several articles on benefits for same-sex couples.
The U.S. Department of Labor (by the way, they have a nifty little intro page about their upcoming 100 year anniversary) issued a revision to Fact Sheet 28F that includes in the definitions spouses in same-sex marriages. LexisNexis Legal Newsroom on Labor and Employment Law, has an interesting article on the extension of FMLA as a result of Windsor, written by Barran Liebman LLP attorneys.
Further, on August 14th, 2013, the Department of Defense announced that it was extending spousal benefits to same-sex spouses of civilian employees as well as uniformed service members. The DoD indicated the benefits would be available no later than September 3, 2013 for those with a valid marriage certificate.
"Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court's decision. Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted. For those members married after June 26, 2013, entitlements begin at the date of marriage."
The Secretary of Defense sent a memo that explained the actions and noted that since not all jurisdictions allow same-sex marriage, the DoD will issue a "non-chargeable leave" policy for military personnel who have to travel to a state to be married, with an immediately-effective memo supplementing the existing leave policy.
Stay tuned-we will keep you posted with further updates.
Photo by Kim Dayton, © 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
Friday, August 16, 2013
Recently I was having lunch with a group of friends. One friend, younger than me, commented that she didn't like to tell people she was "retired," because it made her feel too old. We laughed and asked, "Would it be better to tell people you are 'unemployed'?" We all agreed that probably sounded worse.
But, is "retired" really such a dirty word? For some, perhaps yes. For example, AARP used to be an acronym for the "American Association of Retired Persons" but in 1999 the organization changed its official name to AARP, and membership is open to anyone 50 or over, regardless of working status.
Fortunately for researchers, "retired" and "retirement" are still viable terms that generate a lot of important issues. One of my favorite researchers is Gordon L. Clark at Oxford, who writes and speaks clearly and thoughtfully on a number of financial issues, including retirement. His co-authored Oxford Handbook of Pensions and Retirement Income sits on my quick access shelf.
Another resource for statistics and commentary on retirement-related issues is the University of Michigan's Retirement Research Center. Check their website for the latest publications, including data on the impact of proposed changes in Social Security rules on individuals' work and retirement decisions.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced that all federal benefits will be paid electronically. New enrollees and individuals receiving benefits must select an electronic payment method (direct deposit or prepaid debit card) by March 1, 2013. Programs affected by the change include SSA, SSI, SSDI and VA benefits. Note: This rule does not affect state-issued benefits such as WIC and SNAP food benefits, or child support. * People who do not choose an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013, or at the time they apply for federal benefits, will receive payments via the Direct Express® card so they will not experience any interruption in payment. * People already receiving benefit payments electronically will continue to receive payment as usual on their payment date and do not need to take further action. Created by the Treasury Department, the Go Direct® public education campaign enlists the support of more than 1,800 local, national and regional partner organizations to spread the word about the many benefits of direct deposit and the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card. Partners include banks, credit unions, social service agencies and community-based groups. For more information about the Go Direct Campaign, visit www.GoDirect.org.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced that all federal benefits will be paid electronically. New enrollees and individuals receiving benefits must select an electronic payment method (direct deposit or prepaid debit card) by March 1, 2013.
Programs affected by the change include SSA, SSI, SSDI and VA benefits. Note: This rule does not affect state-issued benefits such as WIC and SNAP food benefits, or child support.
* People who do not choose an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013, or at the time they apply for federal benefits, will receive payments via the Direct Express® card so they will not experience any interruption in payment.
* People already receiving benefit payments electronically will continue to receive payment as usual on their payment date and do not need to take further action.
Created by the Treasury Department, the Go Direct® public education campaign enlists the support of more than 1,800 local, national and regional partner organizations to spread the word about the many benefits of direct deposit and the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card. Partners include banks, credit unions, social service agencies and community-based groups.
For more information about the Go Direct Campaign, visit www.GoDirect.org.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
On May 1, Social Security launched a feature on its website, www.socialsecurity.gov, that allows workers to view an online version of their Social Security earnings and benefits statements. The program also allows you to estimate your retirement, disability and survivors benefits.
You can use this tool to show your kids how little you made when you started working (after you've reminded them that you walked 5 miles to get to school, without an iPod or cellphone). But more important, it can help you receive all of the benefits you're due, and make smart decisions about when to claim them.
Social Security used to mail workers an annual earnings statement, but suspended those mailings last year to save money. Starting in February, Social Security resumed mailing paper statements to workers 60 and older who aren't already receiving benefits. Later this year, it will mail paper statements to workers in the year they turn 25.
Source/more: USA Today
Mitt Romney, in a speech before a conservative group here on Friday, offered his most detailed plan yet to cut government spending and lower the federal debt, including an overhaul of Medicare and significant changes to Social Security. Speaking at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s annual meeting, Mr. Romney said his plan would cap spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2016, and would require $500 billion a year in spending cuts. To accomplish this, Mr. Romney explained, he would eliminate all nonessential government programs, including Amtrak, return federal programs like Medicaid entirely to the states and improve the productivity and efficiency of the federal government. He would also immediately cut all nonsecurity discretionary spending by 5 percent across the board.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Call for Papers – Future of Elder Law Practice
William Mitchell Law Review, Vol. 37, Issue I (Fall 2010)
The William Mitchell Law Review is proud to dedicate its first issue of the 2010-11 academic year to Elder Law in its upcoming Volume 37 (Fall 2010). We are currently seeking papers that examine the future of elder law practice. Submissions may either take the form of shorter commentaries or longer law review articles. The deadline for submissions has been set for July 1, 2010.
The William Mitchell Law Review is highly regarded both regionally and nationally. Our Law Review recently ranked twenty-second in citations by judges and ranked fifty-seventh in citations by other law journals, culminating in an overall ranking of seventieth. Over the years, the William Mitchell Law Review has featured the works of various scholars and practitioners such as Congressman Tim Penny, and former Vice President Walter Mondale. The William Mitchell Law Review has also published nationally known legal experts ranging from Philip Bruner, to Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Byron White, and Harry Blackmun. Now, we would like to invite you to join us to publish in our upcoming volume.
Please direct inquiries to Executive Editor Sanjee Weliwitigoda at [email protected] Please send submissions to [email protected] or mail them to our Editorial Office. Please note that the Law Review prefers electronic submissions.
March 17, 2010 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Summary of the report:
For over 70 years, Social Security has been the foundation of retirement income for American workers and their families and has been instrumental in reducing poverty among the elderly. The Congressional Research Service estimates that if Social Security benefits did not exist, an estimated 44 percent of all elderly people would be poor today. Still, some people who receive Social Security retirement benefits remain vulnerable to poverty in old age. The elderly poverty rate in 2007 was 9.7 percent. In addition, the long-term financing shortfall currently facing the Social Security program is growing and has made reform of the program a priority for policy makers. Thus, the nation faces the challenge of improving long-term program solvency, while also ensuring benefit adequacy for economically vulnerable beneficiaries. Many Social Security reform proposals have suggested modifying the system to restore its financial balance by reducing benefits or increasing payroll or other taxes, and several also include options to address concerns about benefit adequacy for economically vulnerable groups of beneficiaries.
Economically vulnerable beneficiaries generally have limited income from other sources, such as employer-sponsored pension plans or personal savings, and therefore depend heavily on their Social Security benefits. Because they have limited resources, many of those beneficiaries also receive assistance from other programs for low-income individuals, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Medicaid; and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program; among others.
This report addresses the following key questions: (1) What are the options for modifying Social Security benefits to address concerns about benefit adequacy and retirement income security for economically vulnerable groups? and (2) What effects could these options have on benefits those groups receive from SSI, Medicaid, and SNAP?
Get the full report here: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10101r.pdf
Monday, January 11, 2010
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds. The Trustees project that program costs will exceed tax revenues in 2016, one year sooner than projected in last year’s report. The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2037, four years sooner than projected last year. The worsening of the long-range outlook for the Social Security program is due primarily to the recent economic downturn and faster reductions in mortality than previously assumed.
In the 2009 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:
- The projected point at which tax revenues will fall below program costs comes in 2016 -- one year sooner than the estimate in last year’s report.
- The projected point at which the Trust Funds will be exhausted comes in 2037 -- four years sooner than the estimate in last year’s report.
- The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.00 percent of taxable payroll -- up from 1.70 percent in last year’s report.
- Over the 75-year period, the Trust Funds would require additional revenue equivalent to $5.3 trillion in today’s dollars to pay all scheduled benefits.
“Today’s Trustees Report contains some disappointing, but not unexpected, news about the financial condition of the Trust Funds,” Commissioner Astrue said. “We should be neither casual nor hysterical about the revised insolvency dates. As with the economy as a whole, the Social Security system will weather this recession. However, the sooner we get on with the task of reforming the system, the easier it will be to make the tough choices that we all know we need to make.”
Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:
- Income including interest to the combined Old-Age and Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds amounted to $805 billion ($672 billion in net contributions, $17 billion from taxation of benefits and $116 billion in interest) in 2008.
- Total expenditures from the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $625 billion in 2008.
- The assets of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by about $180 billion in 2008 to a total of $2.4 trillion.
- During 2008, an estimated 162 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
- Social Security paid benefits of $615 billion in calendar year 2008. There were almost 51 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
- The cost of $5.7 billion to administer the program in 2008 was a very low 0.9 percent of total expenditures.
- The combined Trust Fund assets earned interest at an effective annual rate of 5.1 percent in 2008.
The Board of Trustees is comprised of six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security; Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.
The 2009 Trustees Report will be posted at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2009/.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The timely collection of relevant medical evidence from providers, such as physicians and psychologists, is key to the Social Security Administration (SSA) process for deciding whether an estimated 2.5 million new claimants each year have impairments that qualify them to receive disability benefits. The initial determinations are generally made by state agencies called Disability Determination Services (DDSs). We evaluated: (1) the challenges, if any, in collecting medical records from the claimants’ own providers and ways SSA and the DDSs are responding to these challenges; (2) the challenges, if any, in obtaining high-quality consultative exams and ways SSA and the DDSs are responding to these challenges; and (3) the progress SSA has made in moving from paper to electronic collection of medical evidence. We surveyed 51 DDS directors, visited 5 state DDSs, reviewed sample case files, and interviewed officials with SSA, DDSs, and associations for claimants and providers. \
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends SSA identify DDS evidence collection practices that may be promising, evaluate their effectiveness, and encourage implementation of successful practices in other states, as applicable. To do so, SSA should cost-effectively compile and assess additional data on the collection process. SSA should also work to identify and address barriers to expanded use of its online medical evidence submission options.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 68 No. 3
Researchers David Autor and Mark Duggan have hypothesized that the Social Security benefit formula using the average wage index, coupled with a widening distribution of income, has created an implicit rise in replacement rates for low-earner disability beneficiaries. This research attempts to confirm and quantify the replacement rate creep identified by Autor and Duggan using actual earnings histories of disability-insured workers over the period 1979–2004. The research finds that disability replacement rates are rising for many insured workers, although the effect may be somewhat smaller than that suggested by Autor and Duggan.
This article examines pension participation and nonpension net worth of two cohorts of near retirees. Particularly, the authors look at people born in 1933 through 1939 who were ages 55–61 in 1994, and the more recent cohort consisting of people of the same age in 2004 who were born in 1943 through 1949. Data are from the Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal, nationally representative survey of older Americans.
With the death of Robert Myers Ball at age 93 on January 29, 2008, the Social Security program lost one of its most committed supporters. In 2001, Ball's biographer, historian Edward D. Berkowitz, described Ball as "the major non-Congressional player in the history of Social Security in the period between 1950 and the present."
In a federal government career that lasted more than four decades, Mollie Orshansky worked for the Children's Bureau, the Department of Agriculture, the Social Security Administration, and other agencies. While working at the Social Security Administration during the 1960s, she developed the poverty thresholds that became the federal government's official statistical measure of poverty; her thresholds remain a major feature of the architecture of American social policy and are widely known internationally.
Several features from our Web site are also reprinted in the Bulletin each quarter. These include
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
A woman accused of helping her religious leader hide a decaying corpse on her toilet so they could continue collecting her Social Security was convicted of a misdemeanor in a deal for her to testify against the leader, a prosecutor said Monday. Tammy Lewis, 36, of Necedah, pleaded no contest to obstructing a police officer and fined $350 in a plea bargain that defers prosecution of more serious charges. Juneau County Circuit John Roemer ordered her to pay the fine within 60 days or serve a seven-day jail sentence.
Lewis and Alan Bushey, 58, were accused of hiding 90-year-old Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth's body on a toilet in Lewis' home after she died in March. Investigators said Middlesworth and Lewis were members of a religious sect Bushey led called the Order of the Divine Will.
Bushey told Lewis that God would revive Middlesworth, who friends and family said was from Washington state, investigators said. Lewis in May initially told a sheriff's deputy that Middlesworth was on vacation. The deputy later discovered the elderly woman's rotting body in Lewis' stench-filled home.
She also told authorities she was Middlesworth's power of attorney, and the older woman used all of her money to support their six-member religious group. Investigators believe Middlesworth's Social Security and annuity checks totaling nearly $3,000 were deposited after her death into a bank account she shared with Lewis.
As part of Lewis' plea deal, five other charges, including three felony counts of hiding a corpse and causing mental harm to a child, will be dismissed in two years if she cooperates with prosecutors and follows other court orders involving her children, District Attorney Scott Southworth said.
"We view her as a victim as well of Alan Bushey," Southworth said. "We also understand the power, the mental power, that Alan Bushey was exercising over her, the coercion he was exerting over her." A deferred prosecution agreement calls for Lewis to continue to receive mental health treatment and testify against Bushey in a trial set to begin in April, the prosecutor said. She and her two children, now ages 12 and 15, will be witnesses in the trial, he said.
Lewis' son told detectives Bushey told him demons were destroying Middlesworth's appearance as she decayed in the bathroom to make it look like she wouldn't rise from the dead, the criminal complaint said.
Source: AP/The Capital Times (Madison, WI), http://www.madison.com/tct/news//index.php?ntid=314772
Monday, October 27, 2008
Replacement rates are common and useful tools used by individuals and policy analysts to plan for retirement and assess the sufficiency of Social Security benefits and overall retirement income. Because the calculation and meaning of replacement rates differs depending on the definition of preretirement earnings, this article examines four alternative measures: final preretirement earnings, constant income payable from the present value of lifetime earnings (PV payment), wage-indexed average of lifetime earnings, and inflation-adjusted average of lifetime earnings (CPI average). The article also calculates replacement rates for Social Security beneficiaries aged 64–66 in 2005.
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is a method of computing benefits for some workers who receive a pension based on non-Social Security covered work. At the end of 2006, about 970,000 beneficiaries, mainly retired workers, were affected by the WEP. This article provides a brief legislative history, describes the WEP computation, and presents statistical data about beneficiaries affected by the WEP.
The Railroad Retirement program was established in the 1930s. It provides retirement, survivor, unemployment, and sickness benefits to individuals who have spent a substantial portion of their career in railroad employment, as well as to these workers' families. This article describes the history, benefit structure, and funding of the Railroad Retirement program.
Canada's Public Pensions System is widely applauded for reducing poverty among the elderly. This article reviews benefits provided to Canada's older people and compares the Canadian system to the U.S. Supplemental Security Income program. Although Canada's system would probably be judged prohibitively expensive for the United States, the authors argue that there are nevertheless lessons to be learned from the Canadian experience.
Since its inception in 1981, Chile's system of mandatory individual retirement accounts has become a model for pension reformers around the world. A March 2008 comprehensive pension reform law made major changes that address some key policy challenges including worker coverage, gender equity, pension adequacy, and administrative fees. The cornerstone of the new law sets up a basic universal pension as a supplement to the individual accounts system.
Access full bulletin: http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v68n2/index.html
Friday, October 17, 2008
From the Social Security Administration:
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 55 million Americans will increase 5.8 percent in 2009, the Social Security Administration announced today. The 5.8 percent increase is the largest since 1982.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), from the third quarter of the prior year to the corresponding period of the current year. This year's increase in the CPI-W was 5.8 percent.
The 5.8 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that over 50 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2009. Increased payments to more than 7 million Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will begin on December 31.
Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $106,800 from $102,000. Of the estimated 164 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2009, about 11 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.
Information about Medicare changes for 2009 can be found at www.medicare.gov.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Dick Kaplan's article entitled “A Guide to Starting Social Security Benefits,” has just
appeared in the Journal of Retirement Planning (July-Aug. 2008) and is
available at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1192902
Abstract: When a person should begin taking Social Security retirement benefits is a critical question for planning one’s retirement. This article explains the various factors at play in determining the optimum starting point, including: longevity considerations; spousal implications, whether for a previously employed or a previously unemployed spouse; the impact of post-retirement employment; the availability of health insurance prior to Medicare eligibility for the worker and the worker’s spouse; alternative sources of retirement income, including distributions from retirement savings plan assets and lifetime liquidation of nonretirement assets (and the pertinent income tax ramifications); and anticipated investment strategies.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Scare Tactics: Why Social Security Is Not in Crisis
Opponents of Social Security have been striving to convince American workers, especially young adults, that Social Security will no longer exist by the time they retire. Phrases such as "imminent crisis" and "unmanageable costs" lace this rhetoric. To a large extent, this alarmism is voiced by those who are hostile to government and therefore favor replacing all or part of one of this nation’s most successful and essential programs with private investment accounts. Bernard Wasow demonstrates why the "crisis" in Social Security is actually quite manageable. Originally published in 2004, this document was updated in July 2008.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The SSA's Office of the Inspector General has published a report on financial institutions that have been charging service fees for garnishing accounts holding Social Security funds. Federal law prohibits involuntary alienation of SS funds on deposit except in very limited circumstances. Here's a summary of the report:
"The objective of our review was to determine whether financial institutions (FI) were
deducting service fees and garnishments from beneficiaries’ direct deposit, personal
accounts. This report contains information related to the 12 largest FIs and a sample of
13 small-, medium- and large-sized FIs that received electronic deposit of payments to
Social Security beneficiaries in the United States from September 1, 2006 through
August 31, 2007. Specifically, this report contains information on
• the number of FIs that allowed the garnishment of Old-Age, Survivors and Disability
Insurance (OASDI)1 and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)2 payments;
• the number of accounts upon which garnishment-related fees were imposed and the
total dollar amount of fees charged to these accounts as a result of the garnishment;
• the types of fees these FIs charged beneficiaries."
Read the report here: http://www.ssa.gov/oig/ADOBEPDF/A-15-08-28031.pdf
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The government plans to announce today that it will offer MasterCard debit cards to the estimated 4 million Social Security recipients who don't have bank accounts. Instead of getting a paper check, a recipient's monthly benefit would be electronically transferred, at no cost, to the debit card's balance. Using the card to make purchases ould be free, as would one ATM withdrawal a month. Switching from paper checks to the debit card would save recipients -- and taxpayers -- a fair amount of money. It costs the government 88 cents more to send a paper check than it does to transfer money electronically. And people without bank accounts pay on average $6 to cash a check, according to the Treasury Department.
Source/more: LA Times, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-debit10-2008jun10,0,27432.story