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Social Security Online
Social Security Update
December 2008

In This Issue:

Social Security To Be First Government Agency To Use Nationwide Health Information Network

Podcast Discusses When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits

Cutting Back the Backlog

Good Tidings For The New Year

Social Security Proposes “Expedited Records Request Provision”

First Full Baby Boomer Year Closes, Bigger One Begins

Keep The “Snow” Where It Belongs

Payment Dates To Pencil In

Social Security To Be First Government Agency To Use Nationwide Health Information Network

DoctorsBeginning in early 2009, Social Security will be the first government agency to utilize the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) and begin to receive medical records for some disability applicants electronically through the NHIN gateway.

Through the NHIN, Social Security will have instantaneous access to medical records. This will significantly shorten the time it takes to make a disability decision and make the process more efficient. The NHIN will help ensure records are received timely by making it easier and less labor-intensive for medical professionals to submit records.

Social Security is working with MedVirginia, the North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance, and Kaiser Permanente to implement the NHIN. In early 2009, the first real-world use of the system will begin between Social Security and MedVirginia.

The NHIN is an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services and is supported by multiple government agencies and private sector entities. Please go to www.hhs.gov/healthit for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Podcast Discusses When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits

PodcastHave you or your clients wondered about the best age to retire and receive Social Security benefits?  Social Security’s new podcast, “Deciding When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits,” is now available for listening at www.socialsecurity.gov/podcasts.  In this podcast, Social Security Acting Deputy Commissioner Jason Fichtner and Deputy Commissioner for Communications Jim Courtney touch on the most important factors to think about regarding retirement age.

Please take a few minutes to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/podcasts and listen to “Deciding When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits.”

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Cutting Back the Backlog

When it comes to reaching Social Security’s goal of eliminating the disability backlog, 2008 included many challenges and even more impressive accomplishments.  The economic downturn has produced a surge in disability claims and hearings. If new applications had not risen during the course of the year to unanticipated levels, there would have been a reduction in pending cases for the first time since 2001. As it was, Social Security received almost 26,000 more hearings requests than budgeted for, but due to productivity increases, we were able to process over 16,000 more hearings than projected and hold the increase in pending hearings down to 14,000 cases.

In fiscal year 2008, we moved quickly to add new staff, use new technologies, and improve our business processes. For example, we hired nearly 200 new administrative law judges as well as staff to support them. We also opened a National Hearing Center, which, through videoconferencing, hears and decides claims from those hearing offices with the highest backlogs. We introduced new electronic technologies and new processes to identify and expedite certain disability cases that are highly likely to be allowed. Through these efforts, we were able to virtually eliminate the aged case backlog (135,000 cases) that had been waiting over 900 days for a hearing decision.

These and other initiatives will continue to improve the quality of our disability claim review process and, providing that Congress gives us adequate, sustained, and timely funding, will allow us to reduce the number of pending cases. Although many challenges lie ahead, Social Security has responded to increased demands on our service and made impressive strides towards eliminating the disability backlog.

 

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Good Tidings For The New Year

Good Tiding For The New YearThis holiday season, Social Security has good tidings to share with Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries: they will receive a 5.8 percent increase in benefit payments beginning with the January payments!

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 seven million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31.

Other changes: In 2008, the maximum taxable amount was $102,000. Beginning in 2009, the maximum taxable amount will be $106,800. This change will affect about 10 million of the 164 million workers who pay Social Security taxes. The tax rate remains the same: 6.2 percent for employers and employees, and 12.4 percent for the self-employed.

In 2009, it will take $1,090 in taxable earnings for a credit of Social Security coverage, up from $1,050 in 2008. All workers can earn up to four credits in a year. The average retired worker will receive $1,153 per month in Social Security benefits in 2009, up from $1,090 in 2008.

To learn more about Social Security changes coming in 2009, visit our online fact sheet at www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/colafacts2009.htm.

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Social Security Proposes “Expedited Records Request Provision”

Each year Social Security makes more than 15 million medical record requests for disability applicants and beneficiaries. Social Security has been working diligently on ways to make the disability determination process go faster and smoother for applicants and all parties involved. Now, Social Security is working in collaboration with advocates and the Disability Determination Services (DDS) to get legislation passed that will streamline the medical release piece of the disability process.

Currently, when a person applies for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income, part of the application process is to have the applicant complete several medical release forms (SSA-827) which Social Security and DDS use to send to medical providers. Each time we need a piece of evidence from another source, we must send out another medical release form. Sometimes, it is required that we go back to the applicant to have additional releases signed which delays the process.

Expedited Records Request would make the process go much faster. Applicants will still be advised of the need to obtain medical records, but they will be asked to grant Social Security permission electronically instead of on a signed paper form. No additional evidence of authorization would be required for the provider to release the information to Social Security. The provision would also relieve providers of existing liability for disclosure of medical records to Social Security when they respond to a request.

To learn more about disability benefits, visit www.socialsecurity.gov and select the “Disability” button along the top banner.

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First Full Baby Boomer Year Closes, Bigger One Begins

Kathleen Casey-KirschlingThis year saw the very first baby boomer begin to receive Social Security retirement benefits. Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, recognized as the nation's first Baby Boomer, applied for benefits the convenient and easy way — online at www.socialsecurity.gov. She received her first payment by direct deposit early in 2008.

Almost four million baby boomers will become eligible to retire in 2009!  We have a suggestion for all those boomers: Save a trip and go online.

Applying online worked for Kirschling, and it can work for other boomers too. Tell people you know who are planning to retire to go to www.socialsecurity.gov and click on the “Retire Online” banner in the center of the page.

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Keep The “Snow” Where It Belongs

TelevisionThe weather outside may be frightful, but even more frightening is to be caught unprepared when February 17 rolls around. That’s when it could begin “snowing” on your analog television set.

By order of Congress, analog broadcasts will end by February 17, 2009. People who don’t have a digital television set or subscribe to cable will have to get their television through a converter box that allows old sets to receive digital broadcasts.

We want to let you know that the government is offering help to people who need to buy the converter boxes. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is issuing $40 coupons toward the purchase of a converter. Every household is entitled to two coupons. More than 100 retailers will accept the coupons toward the purchase of converter boxes.

Tell your clients they can keep the snow off their sets come February by requesting their coupons at www.dtv2009.gov.

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Payment Dates To Pencil In

SSI Payment CalendarDoes anyone ever ask you when their next Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment is coming? Questions like this arise when usual pay dates fall on holidays or weekends. Figuring out when benefits will be paid does not have to be a guessing game. Just visit our handy, online payment calendar. The calendar shows payment dates for the entire year of 2009, for Social Security benefits and SSI payments. You’ll want to bookmark this page because the calendar at this web address is updated each year with the New Year’s payment schedule. Take a look at the 2009 payment schedule by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/calendar.htm .

 

 

 

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