Monday, June 21, 2021
This GAO report is a couple of months old, but I think it's important enough to bring it to your attention, Retirement Security: Debt Increased for Older Americans over Time, but the Implications Vary by Debt Type.
Here are the fast facts from the report:
Older Americans held nearly half of the total debt in 2020—debt that may affect their retirement security. We found that older Americans had significantly more debt in 2016 than in 1989.
We also found that low-income, older Americans had greater "debt stress"—the ratio of debts to assets. In 2016, debt stress was about two times higher for minority households than White households.
Experts said that different debt types (credit cards, housing debt, etc.) have varying effects on retirement security. For example, carrying credit card debt with high variable interest rates may make it difficult for the elderly to save for retirement.
Monday, May 10, 2021
This semester at Dickinson Law, I've been teaching a comparative law module on Social Security Benefits. We've been spending more time than usual examining issues associated with basic "retirement benefits" rather than the more complicated topics of Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplement Security Income (SSI) benefits.
A group of us ended the semester with an interesting hypothetical. Imagine that a retired, older client has a DWI -- his second within some number of years -- involving property damage and, thankfully, no direct endangerment to anyone's life or safety. Assume a damaged mailbox or telephone pole. The state law might treat that as a misdemeanor, but because it is a second offense, it could still mean substantial jail time. The client is thinking about pleading guilty, even if the sentence is 60 to 90 days. The older client might be thinking "the faster I get this over, the faster I can get home and headed back in the right direction with my life."
Do lawyers advise such clients of the potential impact of incarceration, whether in a jail or prison, on his or her right to receive basic Social Security benefits? This was a new topic for me and of course that sent me scurrying for information. Here's what I've read so far:
- The Social Security Administration has a December 2019 brochure, entitled "What Prisoners Need to Know."
- Federal statutory law currently provides, at 42 U.S.C. Section 402(x)(1)(A), that "no monthly benefits shall be paid" to any individual who is "confined in a jail, prison, or other penal institution or correctional facility pursuant to his conviction of a criminal offense" for 30 continuous days or more. Does this mean the trigger for loss of benefits is 30+ days of confinement for any crime, even a misdemeanor? While a related regulation, at 20 CFR Section 404.468, provides that no monthly benefits shall be paid if the confinement is for a "conviction of a felony," (my emphasis added) it may be that regulation's language reflects pre-1999 statutory law. See e.g., amendments to Section 402(x) set forth in P.L. 106-170 (Dec. 17, 1999), 113 Stat. 1860, an act with the ominous name of "Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act."
- Cases explain that since 1983, the statutory mandate to suspend payments applies to basic retirement benefits, as well as SSD and SSI, and can also trigger a demand for refunds of any SS program funds "overpaid" during confinement, potentially reducing any future benefits the individual would otherwise receive once out of jail. See e.g., Zipkin v. Heckler, 790 F.2d 16 (2d Cir. 1986).
- Attempts to challenge the application of Section 402(x) by arguing the law violates substantive due process, equal protection or is unconstitutional as a bill of attainder or ex post facto law have not met with success. See e.g., Butler v. Apfel 114 F.3d 622 (9th Cir. 1998).
Back to our hypothetical. The client might be planning to go home after 30, 60, 90 days or more in jail, but what if the client was depending on SS retirement income -- reflecting his life-time work record -- in order to keep making house payments for that time?
Originally the theory of suspending federal SS payments focused on "disability" payments, because the confined individuals were being maintained at public expense and their inability to work is a consequence of their criminal conviction, not their disability. But what of the 1983 amendment, expanding the suspensions to SS retirement income? In the Zipkin case linked above, at page 18-19, the Second Circuit rejected any distinction:
"We can perceive no reason why prisoners whose retirement benefits are suspended would have a need for replacement of income while prisoners whose disability benefits are suspended do not. Rather, prisoners, as a group, do not have the need for a continuing source of income that nonprisoners typically may have. . . . Social Security retirement benefits are designed to satisfy certain baseline economic needs, reasonably predictable when a worker retires. . . . They are not benefits held in trust and payable per se."
It is a tough world, right? But does it need to be this tough? According to the Social Security Administration's recent statistics, among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, "21% of married couples and about 45% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income." Feel free to add your own thoughts in the "comments."
Monday, May 3, 2021
Mark your calendars for May 11 at 2 eastern for Title II Auxiliary Benefits: Social Security Benefits You’ve Never Heard of and Who is Eligible for Them.
When most people hear about “Social Security benefits,” the first thought that comes to mind is income for older individuals who have retired from work. It’s true that the Social Security system provides a foundation of retirement income that permits older adults to live in dignity, with over 46 million retired workers receiving benefits each month.
However, the Social Security system is also the foundation of economic security for millions of family members of retired, disabled, or deceased workers. In addition to retirement benefits, Social Security offers disability insurance protection to workers and their spouse and children, as well as life insurance that pays monthly survivors benefits to dependents if the worker dies.
Join this training to learn more about the eligibility requirements for benefits for spouses and ex-spouses, children, and parents. About one American family in four receives income from Social Security benefits, and many more could receive this income if they knew they were eligible. These benefits offer an opportunity to provide more financial stability to eligible older adult households.
To register, click here.
Friday, January 29, 2021
The ABA Commission on Law and Aging has published vol. 42, Issue 3 (Jan.-Feb.2021), its current issue of BIOFOCAL. The issue contains several articles, including a couple on Social Security Rep Payees, with the lead article, How Does Social Security Select Representative Payees for Adults? Results of an Independent Research Study
Almost four million older adults and adults with disabilities have representative payees appointed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to manage their Social Security or SSI payments. How does SSA determine if a payee is needed? How do SSA staff select a payee? How do they choose an individual versus an organizational payee? What are the considerations in long-term care residential facilities serving as the payee? What about guardians serving as payee? How and to what extent does SSA maintain consistency in payee determinations?
In 2018, the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB) charged researchers at Virginia Tech and the ABA Commission on Law and Aging to conduct an independent study focusing on these compelling questions. The study team addressed SSA processes for selection of payees for adults. The underlying assumption was that a better understanding of selection practices ultimately could lead to process improvements, as well as a reduction in the potential for misuse and abuse of beneficiary funds while maintaining beneficiary rights.
A pdf of the full issue is available here.
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
The Hill ran an item a couple of weeks ago, Social Security Administration is preparing to bar 500,000 Americans from getting benefits.
SSA’s proposal, as described in press reports, would make it harder for older workers to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. By law (not regulation), SSA is required to consider age, education and work experience when determining whether a person meets the statutory definition of disability.
The implications are far reaching-if this proposal is passed.
In short, SSA’s proposal to tighten SSDI benefits fails to even advance past a very basic question about the suggested policy: What is the point? Looking at recent or modern data, the current system routinely denies benefits to older individuals with serious health problems and diminished prospects in the modern economy. Amplifying these outcomes by trying to get even more denials is not a rational policy approach.
The proposal would also exacerbate inequality in the United States along the lines of race and income. More than 25 percent of denied Social Security disability applicants are Black, a percentage that far exceeds the percentage of African Americans in the overall working age population. Additionally, nearly 40 percent of denied applicants live in poverty. SSA’s proposal to get more denials seems out of touch with regard to many of the serious problems facing the country.
It remains to be seen whether the administration will continue to push this through before President-elect Biden takes office. Although the change could be undone, wouldn't it be nice if it just didn't happen?
Thanks to my colleague, Professor Mark Bauer, for sending me the article.
Monday, December 14, 2020
There's absolutely nothing good at all about COVID. I could list a number of ways it has harmed us, beyond health implications, but I just want to share one article with you from the New York Times, Female Workers Could Take Another Pandemic Hit: To Their Retirements.
Now, the pandemic recession is disproportionately damaging the careers of women — so much so that some experts call it a “shecession.”
In November, the national unemployment rate dipped to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent, the Labor Department reported last week. But the pace of job growth has stalled, and millions have dropped out of the labor market altogether, especially women. One recent study found a disproportionate decline in employment for women of prime working age, 25 to 55, compared with men — and especially so for mothers.
The losses sustained are not just right now-but must be factored over time, including "missed wage growth, retirement savings and Social Security benefits." Here is a great visual for this: a calculator developed by the center for American Progress.
The article discusses the importance of Social Security and includes info about President-elect Biden's plans for Social Security, which would
award work credit to people who cared for children or other relatives. It would also expand benefits for widows in certain circumstances, and bump up benefits for seniors who had collected payments for 20 years. Finally, it would adopt a new yardstick to determine Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment — the CPI-E, an experimental Labor Department inflation measure designed to more accurately reflect the inflation experienced by seniors, especially health care expenses.
This is a good article-I plan to assign it to my students in the spring.
BTW, a shout out to the health care workers, first responders, essential personnel, everyone, who is keeping us going through this pandemic. And to the scientists who created the vaccine, THANK YOU!!!!
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Concomitant with the announcement of the Medicare premiums for 2021 comes a blog post from SSA explaining how the hold harmless provision works. How the Hold Harmless Provision Protects Your Benefits explains that with some exceptions, "the “hold harmless provision” protects ... Social Security benefit payment from decreasing due to an increase in the Medicare Part B premium... To qualify for the hold harmless provision, [the recipient] must: .... Receive Social Security benefits or be entitled to Social Security benefits for November and December of the current year [and the recipient's] Medicare Part B premiums for December and January [are] deducted from [the SSA] monthly benefits."
Read the blog here.
Friday, November 27, 2020
This is not a happy article for the day after Thanksgiving-but it is a darn important topic. The Conversation published this article, Nearly two-thirds of older Black Americans can’t afford to live alone without help – and it’s even tougher for Latinos explains that
Older Americans who want to live independently face serious economic challenges. Half who live alone don’t have enough income to afford even a bare-bones budget in their home communities, and nearly 1 in 4 couples face the same problem.
Those numbers add up to at least 11 million older adults who are struggling to make ends meet, a new analysis shows.
The numbers are worse for older people of color. Dramatically higher percentages of Black, Latino and Asian older adults live on incomes that don’t meet their cost of living, even with Social Security. That can mean skipping needed health care, not having enough food, living in unhealthy conditions or having to move in with family.
These disparities often reflect lifelong disadvantages that add up as people of color encounter structural racism and discrimination that shape their ability to buy property and save for the future.
The authors used some data available about elders "to measure the true cost of living for older adults. It tracks expenses for housing, health care, transportation, food and other basics, county by county. We paired the index with state-level income data to determine the percentage of people who don’t have enough income to cover their cost of living." The results show that "disadvantages people of color face can extend through their lifetimes and can pass on to future generations." Not only is income security an issue, so is health security "[s]ecuring and protecting health into later life is also more challenging for many people of color."
The results also showed state by state variations. The article concludes with various recommendations:
Today’s older adults who are struggling financially can’t go back, but there are several ways to help them now:
Policies can promote affordable housing and affordable health care, which represent the biggest components of older Americans’ budgets.
Governments can promote mechanisms that allow people to keep working into later life, which allows people to continue generating income and building wealth, and also delays drawing down other income sources such as pensions or Social Security benefits.
Social Security and Medicare — the foundations of a secure retirement for millions of Americans — are essential for these groups. Older people of color rely more heavily than their white counterparts on Social Security and are at heightened risk when these programs are threatened.
Making sure government assistance programs such as SNAP benefits for food and housing subsidies are accessible to the people who need them can also help. Ensuring access includes providing information in multiple languages and hiring outreach workers who understand the population’s needs.
Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending me the link to the article.
Monday, November 23, 2020
A little over a week ago, the Motley Fool ran this article, Working and Collecting Social Security? Big Changes May Be on the Way in 2021. The article opens discussing the importance of Social Security to recipients. "Without this guaranteed monthly benefit, the elderly poverty rate would be close to 40%, according to an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (it's under 9% with Social Security payouts)." For those who are working, there are changes coming, according to the article.
"Some choose to continue working, either part-time or full-time, while collecting their retired worker benefit from the program. If you're one of these people, or you expect to claim benefits very soon while continuing to stay employed in some capacity, you should be aware of a handful of changes expected to occur in 2021."
The retirement earnings test amount (a formula that provides a deduction from SSA checks based on earnings amount for those who claim Social Security before reaching their full retirement age) is being increased (the article does a good job of explaining the earnings test).
Back in August the president issued an administrative order for a payroll tax deferral through the end of the year and for those who chose the deferral, 2021 is just around the corner when they have that bill coming due. Also in 2021, the payroll tax earnings cap will increase.
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Last week I received two emails from SSA that I thought I'd share with you. The first concerned the unveiling of SSA's new electronic Consent Based Social Security Number (SSN) Verification (eCBSV) service. You might be thinking "say what?" Well here is the info you need to know, straight from SSA
“Our new electronic SSN verification service helps reduce synthetic identity fraud by comparing agency records with data provided electronically by approved participants,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “This is an important online service that helps us provide participants and their customers fast, secure, and more efficient SSN verifications.”
Social Security created eCBSV, a fee-based electronic SSN verification service, to allow select financial institutions and service providers, called “permitted entities” and including subsidiaries, affiliates, agents, subcontractors, or assignees of a financial institution, to verify if a person’s SSN, name, and date of birth combination matches Social Security records. Social Security needs the person’s written consent and will accept an electronic signature in order to disclose the SSN verification to the permitted entity. eCBSV returns a match verification of “Yes” or “No.” eCBSV does not verify a person’s identity.
Next, SSA's latest blog post is about Social Security in plain language.
Some of the terms and acronyms people use when they talk about Social Security can be a little confusing. We’re here to help you understand all you need to know.
We strive to explain your benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to communicate clearly in a way “the public can understand and use.” This can be particularly challenging when talking about complicated programs like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare. If there’s a technical term or acronym that you don’t know, you can easily find the meaning in our online glossary.
Monday, October 5, 2020
The GAO has released a new report, RETIREMENT SECURITY: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain Future. Here are the highlights:
In all 14 focus groups GAO held with older women, women described some level of anxiety about financial security in retirement. Many expressed concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of health care and housing. Women in the groups also cited a range of experiences that hindered their retirement security, such as divorce or leaving the workforce before they planned to (see fig.). Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement. Many shared ideas about personal finance education including the view that it should be incorporated into school curriculum starting in kindergarten and continuing through college, and should be available through all phases of life.
Individual women's financial security is also linked to their household where resources may be shared among household members. According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, among households with older women, about 23 percent of those with white respondents and 40 percent of those with African American respondents fell short of a measure of retirement confidence, indicating their income was not sufficient to maintain their standard of living. The likelihood of a household reporting high retirement confidence rose in certain cases. For example among households of similar wealth, those with greater liquidity in their portfolio and those with defined benefit plan income were more likely to report high retirement confidence.
The full report is available here.
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
With everything else we had going on, this one slipped past me. The SSA Trustees released their annual report in April. Here's the summary from the press release (note-this doesn't include COVID-19 impact analysis)
The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI and DI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2035, the same as projected last year, with 79 percent of benefits payable at that time.
The OASI Trust Fund is projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as last year’s estimate, with 76 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund is estimated to become depleted in 2065, extended 13 years from last year’s estimate of 2052, with 92 percent of benefits still payable.
In the 2020 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:
- The asset reserves of the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds increased by $2.5 billion in 2019 to a total of $2.897 trillion.
- The total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed total annual income, for the first time since 1982, in 2021 and remain higher throughout the 75-year projection period. As a result, asset reserves are expected to decline during 2021. Social Security’s cost has exceeded its non-interest income since 2010.
- The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2035 – the same as last year’s projection. At that time, there would be sufficient income coming in to pay 79 percent of scheduled benefits.
“The projections in this year’s report do not reflect the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Social Security program. Given the uncertainty associated with these impacts, the Trustees believe it is not possible to adjust estimates accurately at this time,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “The duration and severity of the pandemic will affect the estimates presented in this year’s report and the financial status of the program, particularly in the short term.”
Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:
Total income, including interest, to the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds amounted to $1.062 trillion in 2019. ($944.5 billion from net payroll tax contributions, $36.5 billion from taxation of benefits, and $81 billion in interest)
Total expenditures from the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds amounted to $1.059 trillion in 2019.
Social Security paid benefits of $1.048 trillion in calendar year 2019. There were about 64 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 3.21 percent of taxable payroll – higher than the 2.78 percent projected in last year’s report.
During 2019, an estimated 178 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
The cost of $6.4 billion to administer the Social Security program in 2019 was a very low 0.6 percent of total expenditures.
The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 2.8 percent in 2019.
The full trustees' report is available here.
Thursday, May 14, 2020
New research described in the Bulletin on Retirement and Disability published by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides new support for thinking about ways to help maximize use of benefits to pay for core living expenses. Researchers Lint Barrage (UC Santa Barbara), Ian Chin (Michigan), Eric Chin (Dartmouth),and Justine Hastings (Brown) examine how timing of receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits affects a household's ability and success in paying for utilities, such as electric bills. They observe:
Our results suggest that, for low income households, timing of income from government benefits and the timing of bills due may have long-run consequences. If bills are not received when income is received, households are more likely to miss payments, which may compound into disconnections which may further impact family financial and health outcomes.
These results add to a growing literature suggesting that government benefits programs and/or private industry innovate in ways to help low income households balance budgets throughout the month and avoid potential poverty traps. In the case of electricity bills, moving bill receipt to coincide with SNAP benefits receipt could improve repayment rates. This could help low income families avoid poverty traps, but also lower electricity rates for all rate payers in regulated markets, since collection and electricity service disruption are costly and must be covered by regulated electricity rates. Further research is needed to implement and measure the impact of changes in timing of bill receipt through, for example, a randomized controlled trial, and to expand the outcome measures of impact to include measures of financial well being such as credit scores.
For more, read How Bill Timing Affects Low-Income and Aged Households, NBER RDRC Working Paper 19-09) and the Bulletin summary.
Our thanks to George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn for this reference. I suspect that the timing of core household bills and public receipt of pandemic-driven federal stimulus payments would make for another interesting study.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Last week I got an email notification of a recent blog post from SSA. Advance Designation: Choose a Representative Payee for Social Security to Consider Before You May Need One
Here's the info
The future can be uncertain. However, Social Security’s Advance Designation program can help put you in control of your benefits if a time comes when you need a representative payee to help manage your money.
Advance Designation enables you to identify up to three people, in priority order, whom you would like to serve as your potential representative payee.
The following people may choose an Advance Designation:
- Adults applying for benefits who do not have a representative payee.
- Adult beneficiaries/recipients who do not have a representative payee.
- Emancipated minors applying for benefits who do not have a representative payee.
- Emancipated minor beneficiaries/recipients who do not have a representative payee.
The blog post continues to explain more about how to do this and when it is used. The accompanying FAQ about the Advance Designation is available here.
Monday, April 6, 2020
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has made many changes to its policies and procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes impact all areas of the agency – the local offices, each state’s Disability Determination Service, and the hearing offices. This webinar will provide an overview of these changes, and offer suggestions for how advocates can interact with SSA during this unusual time.
Registration info is available here,
The second webinar, on April 14, 2020 covers Medicare and COVID-19. Scheduled for 2 p.m. edt, this webinar will cover "The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and new legislation have changed many of the rules in Medicare to respond to COVID-19. This webinar will focus on the changes to Medicare that most impact low-income older adults."
To register for this webinar, click here.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
ACTEC (American College of Trusts & Estate Counsel) is devoting a volume of its Journal to Elder Law! Here's the info about the call for papers.
The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel announces a Call For Papers on the following topic:
With an aging generation of Boomers and increasing estate tax exemptions, the practice and study of trusts and estates may be driven less by tax planning and more by a host of other issues confronting an older population. Those issues may be broadly grouped under the term "Elder Law."
A special issue of the ACTEC Law Journal will be devoted to a discussion of the intersection of Trusts and Estates and Elder Law and will be comprised of brief articles (2,000 word maximum). The conception of Elder Law is broad and intended to encompass all matters of legal concern that a trusts and estates lawyer might address for an aging client – or a client who is concerned about aging. Suggested topics include retirement planning, financial planning and wealth management, guardianship, disability and medical care, end-of-life planning, incapacity, powers of attorney, health care proxies, nursing homes and long-term care planning, special needs trusts, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, elder abuse (physical or financial), age discrimination, family succession planning, grandparent visitation rights, and classic core trusts and estates topics like wills, trusts, intestacy, probate administration, and nonprobate transfers.
Procedure for proposals: Authors wishing to contribute to this special volume should send a brief proposal to Professor Alyssa A. DiRusso, Editor, ACTEC Law Journal, at email@example.com. Please include “ACTEC Elder Law” in the subject line of your e-mail.
Proposals are due by April 1, 2020. Early submissions are encouraged as proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Given the brevity of each article, articles that delve into one or two topics in detail will normally be preferred over more general articles. We encourage submissions by authors from a variety of backgrounds, including those actively involved in fiduciary administration or the practice of law.
Final articles will be due by August 1, 2020 and will be published in the ACTEC Law Journal, Volume 46 Issue 1.
March 10, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Other, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, February 14, 2020
For those of us who have ever been victims of a fraud that involves your Social Security benefits, we know it's a serious pain (speaking from personal experience). Protecting all of your personal info is so important. To help beneficiaries, SSA has released a new PSA for beneficiaries. Social Security Launches New Campaign to Fight Scammers explains:
Recently, we launched a new Public Service Announcement campaign as our latest step to caution you about the ongoing nationwide telephone impersonation scheme. The videos feature a message from our Commissioner, Andrew Saul. Along with our Office of the Inspector General, we continue to receive reports about fraudulent phone calls and emails from people falsely claiming they’re government employees. The scammers play on emotions like fear to convince people to provide personal information or money in cash, wire transfers, or gift cards. Fraudsters are also emailing fake documents in attempts to get people to comply with their demands.
“I want every American to know that if a suspicious caller states there is a problem with their Social Security number or account, they should hang up and never give the caller money or personal information. People should then go online to report the scam call to Social Security,” said Commissioner Saul.
The PSA is available here. Watch it!
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Everyone agrees that we need a stronger national commitment to "retirement security" in America. But what, exactly does that mean? This topic will be a central focus for discussion during a Public Forum hosted at Penn State's Dickinson Law on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. The keynote speaker is former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is currently the Director of Retirement Security at the Economic Policy Institute, as well as serving as a research professor at Georgetown University.
Along those very lines, last week I read a news article about the latest stalemate at the federal level on specific legislation that could promote better retirement savings. The measure in question is H.R. 1994, the "Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement" Act -- and of course that name was chosen to reinforce the goal of SECURE futures. The bill passed the House with strong, bipartisan backing in May 2019, but is now mired in the Senate. Excerpts from The Hill describe the roadblocks to passage:
GOP senators on Thursday attempted to bring a House-passed retirement savings bill to the Senate floor with votes on a limited number of amendments, but the effort was rejected by Democrats.
The Republican effort and Democrats' rejection highlighted how, despite widespread bipartisan support and backing from industry groups, it is still unclear when the retirement bill will be enacted.
The House in May in a nearly unanimous vote approved the bill, known as the SECURE Act. The bill includes a host of provisions aimed at making it easier for businesses to offer retirement plans and for people to save for retirement. It also reverses a provision in the 2017 Republican tax-cut law that inadvertently raised taxes on military survivor benefits paid to children....
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) objected to the Republican request, saying that Senate Democrats want the chamber to pass the House-passed bill as-is, without any amendments.
“We have a few Republican senators who want to sidetrack it with last-minute amendments, including proposals that are not in the interest of working families and will kill any chance this bill has of becoming law,” she said.
Murray asked Toomey to modify his request in order to allow the bill to pass as-is, but Toomey said he wouldn’t modify his request.
For another perspective, see "What is the SECURE Act? How Could It Affect Your Future?"
Monday, October 7, 2019
The GAO recently released a new report, Social Security Benefits: SSA Needs to Improve Oversight of Organizations that Manage Money for Vulnerable Beneficiaries. Here are the highlights:
What GAO Found
The Social Security Administration (SSA) approves organizational payees—such as nursing homes or non-profits that manage the Social Security benefits of individuals unable to do so on their own—by assessing a range of suitability factors, such as whether the organizations have adequate staff to manage benefits for multiple individuals. However, GAO found that SSA's policy does not specify how to assess more complex suitability factors, such as whether an organization demonstrates sound financial management. Without clearer guidance, unqualified or ill-prepared organizational payees could be approved to manage benefits. Also, SSA does not currently require background checks for key employees of an organizational payee. In contrast, SSA requires background checks for individual payees—such as a relative or friend of the beneficiary. A comprehensive evaluation could help SSA determine whether and how to expand their use of background checks to organizational payees.
To ensure organizational payees are managing funds appropriately, SSA uses several monitoring tools, including resource-intensive onsite reviews. Certain organizational payees, such as those that charge fees for their services or have 50 or more beneficiaries (high-volume), receive onsite reviews every 3 to 4-years. In contrast, payees that serve fewer than 50 beneficiaries (low-volume)—the vast majority—are selected for review based on their estimated likelihood of misusing beneficiary funds, and a relatively low percent of them receive onsite reviews (see figure). SSA uses a predictive statistical model to identify higher risk low-volume payees, but the model's effectiveness cannot be fully assessed by GAO or others due to missing documentation on how it was designed. SSA officials said they will update the model in the future, but do not have a time frame for doing so. Establishing such a time frame and documenting design decisions are key steps toward assessing the model's effectiveness.
. . .
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making nine recommendations in this report, including that SSA: clarify how to assess complex suitability factors; assess requiring background checks for organizational payees; establish a timeframe for reviewing the predictive model and document design decisions resulting from that review; and establish timeframes for, and conduct revisions of the accounting form. SSA agreed with all nine recommendations and provided technical comments that GAO incorporated as appropriate.
The full report is available here.
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
There are two upcoming webinars that I wanted to alert you about so you can register. The National Center on Elder Abuse is hosting a webinar on September 18, 2019 from 3-4 edt, on Recognizing and Addressing Abuse in Long-Term Care Facilities. According to the email announcement
People living in long-term care (LTC) facilities can be vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Recognizing and addressing abuse and neglect in LTC facilities as well as knowing their rights is crucial for both residents and their family members.
This webinar presented by the Paralysis Resource Center will help to understand the rights of residents of LTC facilities, identify the signs of abuse and neglect, and learn how to report concerns and complaints to the appropriate agencies. Attendees will learn about the important role of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in addressing complaints and how to contact the program. The webinar will also seek to empower people with paralysis and their family members by providing information on choosing a long-term care facility and tips for advocating for quality care.
The webinar will be presented by Amity Overall-Laib, Director of the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC). Amity served as a local long-term care ombudsman in Texas for six years advocating for residents in 65 nursing homes and 130 assisted living facilities in a 12-county region. During her tenure in Texas, she led the formation of the Gulf Coast Culture Change Coalition, resulting in two free conferences for long-term care consumers, providers, advocates and regulators promoting culture change practices and has presented at local, state, and national conferences. She also had the pleasure of representing fellow local ombudsmen on the Board of Directors for NALLTCO (National Association of Local Long-Term Care Ombudsmen). Amity was previously a consultant to NORC then served as Manager for Program and Policy.
To register, click here.
Next, the National Center on Law & Elder Rights is hosting a webinar on Issues at the Intersection of Social Security and Medicare on October 8 at 2 eastern time. According to the email announcement,
Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits are closely intertwined, and most people who receive one also receive the other. The close connection means that a problem with one benefit will sometimes cause problems with the other benefit. It can be difficult to figure out which agency is responsible and where to go for relief. This webcast will focus on why cross-program issues occur and what advocates can do to resolve them.
Presenters will share:
- Agencies and key players: Who is in charge of what?
- Situations when Medicare and Social Security benefits are linked and when they are not.
- Issues that arise and strategies for resolving them, including state buy-in issues for Medicare Part B premiums, and challenges keeping Medicare active during an appeal of the termination of Social Security disability benefits.
To register, click here.
September 11, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)