Use of Video Teleconferencing (VTC) at Hearings

We have been inundated with calls from our clients receiving these cryptic ‘opt-out’ notices for video hearings. The rules changed in June because the Administration was concerned representatives might be ‘judge-shopping’ by waiting to see who the Administrative Law Judge will be for the video hearing, and then asking for an in-person hearing so it would be reassigned. Now, these notices are being sent to all claimants who have requested a hearing, before the case is assigned to an ALJ.

http://nosscr.org/ssa-implements-changes-video-hearing-opt

A few of our clients have asked if they may be able to get a hearing more quickly if they say a video hearing is fine. For most of the claimants we represent, the answer is almost certainly no, because as of August 29, 2014, the Stockton hearing office is the 4th fastest in the country:

http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ssa.gov%2Fappeals%2FDataSets%2F05_Average_Processing_Time_Report.html&h=PAQFvDCMR&s=1


Social Security & Taxes

Tax season is here again and if you are wondering if your taxes are affected by your benefits there are free resources to help you. Some disability insurance benefits can be taxable, to obtain more information contact:

IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service: http://taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/

IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program (for those who qualify)

http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers


SSA Office Cuts

In December 2013 the Social Security Administration announced it would be cutting the following field office services:

  1. Benefit Verification Letters
  2. Social Security Number printouts

The benefit verification letters can still be obtained by calling the SSA’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. However, due to advocate concerns, the implementation of both of these service cuts has been delayed. We will keep you posted on the date of implementation as more information becomes available.


ALJ Rates

On November 19, 2013 Glenn Sklar, Deputy Commissioner for the Social Security Administration, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, presented a report before the House Oversight Subcommittee hearing on the SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) program. Mr. Sklar presented information on the rates of ALJs (Administrative Law Judges). His full statement at the hearing can be found at the Social Security Website: (http://www.ssa.gov/legislation/testimony_111913.html).


SSA Processing Time

The Social Security Administration has released it yearly “Caseload Analysis Report.” The average processing time are:

Average processing time:

FY 2012: 353 days

FY 2013: 382 days

Our local Social Security Office is nationally ranked 3rd with an average processing time of 265 days.


2014 COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment)

Social Security has announced an increase in the Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security and SSI beneficiaries in 2014. The rates are as followed:

COLA SSI (individual)

1.5% (2014) $721/mo (2014)

1.7% (2013) $710/mo (2013)

For more information please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.


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