Rescission of Social Security Ruling 93-2p; Policy Interpretation Ruling; Titles II and XVI: Evaluation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection
In accordance with 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1), the Acting Commissioner of Social Security gives notice of the rescission of Social Security Ruling (SSR) 93-2p.
Social Security Ruling 17-1p; Titles II and XVI: Reopening Based on Error on the Face of the Evidence-Effect of a Decision by the Supreme Court of the United States Finding a Law That We Applied To Be Unconstitutional
We are giving notice of SSR 17-1p. This SSR explains how we apply our reopening rules when we have applied a Federal or State law to a claim for benefits that the Supreme Court of the United States later determines to be unconstitutional, and we find the application of that law was material to our determination or decision. We expect that this ruling will clarify our policy in light of recent questions that we have received on this issue.
Notice Announcing Addresses for Service of Process
Our Office of the General Counsel (OGC) is responsible for processing and handling summonses and complaints in lawsuits involving judicial review of our final decisions on individual claims for benefits under titles II, VIII, and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). This notice sets out the names and current addresses of those offices and the jurisdictions for which each office has responsibility.
Unsuccessful Work Attempts and Expedited Reinstatement Eligibility; Correction
We published a document in the Federal Register revising our rules on October 17, 2016. That document inadvertently omitted a corresponding technical change to Sec. 404.1592f(a) when Sec. 404.1592c(a) was amended with the final rule publication. By making this technical correction we will also need to redesignate the amendatory instructions to incorporate the missing section changes to Sec. 404.1592f(a). This document corrects the final regulation by making these technical corrections.
Revisions to Rules Regarding the Evaluation of Medical Evidence
We are revising our medical evidence rules. The revisions include redefining several key terms related to evidence, revising our rules about acceptable medical sources (AMS), revising how we consider and articulate our consideration of medical opinions and prior administrative medical findings, revising our rules about medical consultants (MC) and psychological consultants (PC), revising our rules about treating sources, and reorganizing our evidence regulations for ease of use. These revisions conform our rules to the requirements of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA), reflect changes in the national healthcare workforce and in the manner that individuals receive medical care, and emphasize the need for objective medical evidence in disability and blindness claims. We expect that these changes will simplify our rules to make them easier to understand and apply, and allow us to continue to make accurate and consistent disability determinations and decisions.
Rate for Assessment on Direct Payment of Fees to Representatives in 2017
We are announcing that the assessment percentage rate under sections 206(d) and 1631(d)(2)(C) of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. 406(d) and 1383(d)(2)(C), is 6.3 percent for 2017.
Notice on Penalty Inflation Adjustments for Civil Monetary Penalties
The Social Security Administration is providing notice of its adjusted maximum civil monetary penalties. These amounts are effective beginning January 15, 2017. These figures represent an annual adjustment for inflation. The updated figures and notification are required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (the 2015 Act).\1\
Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007
These final rules implement provisions of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (NIAA) that require Federal agencies to provide relevant records to the Attorney General for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Under these final rules, we will identify, on a prospective basis, individuals who receive Disability Insurance benefits under title II of the Social Security Act (Act) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments under title XVI of the Act and who also meet certain other criteria, including an award of benefits based on a finding that the individual's mental impairment meets or medically equals the requirements of section 12.00 of the Listing of Impairments (Listings) and receipt of benefits through a representative payee. We will provide pertinent information about these individuals to the Attorney General on not less than a quarterly basis. As required by the NIAA, at the commencement of the adjudication process we will also notify individuals, both orally and in writing, of their possible Federal prohibition on possessing or receiving firearms, the consequences of such prohibition, the criminal penalties for violating the Gun Control Act, and the availability of relief from the prohibition on the receipt or possession of firearms imposed by Federal law. Finally, we also establish a program that permits individuals to request relief from the Federal firearms prohibitions based on our adjudication. These changes will allow us to fulfill responsibilities that we have under the NIAA.
Ensuring Program Uniformity at the Hearing and Appeals Council Levels of the Administrative Review Process
We are revising our rules so that more of our procedures at the hearing and Appeals Council levels of our administrative review process are consistent nationwide. We anticipate that these nationally consistent procedures will enable us to administer our disability programs more efficiently and better serve the public.
Request for Information on Strategies for Improving Work Outcomes for Individuals With Musculoskeletal Disabilities
On Monday, September 19, 2016, we published in the Federal Register a notice requesting information regarding Request for Information (RFI) on Strategies for Improving Work Outcomes for Individuals with Musculoskeletal Disabilities and solicited public comments. We provided a 60-day comment period ending on November 18, 2016. We are reopening the comment period for 30 days.
Privacy Act of 1974; Proposed New System of Records
In accordance with the Privacy Act we are issuing public notice of our intent to establish a new system of records entitled, Anti-Harassment & Hostile Work Environment Case Tracking and Records System (60-0380), hereinafter referred to as the Anti-Harassment System. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires agencies to implement anti-harassment policies and procedures separate from the Equal Employment Opportunity process. As a result of implementing those policies and procedures, SSA is creating the Anti- Harassment System, which will capture and house information regarding allegations of workplace harassment filed by SSA employees, including SSA contractors, alleging harassment by another SSA employee or SSA contractor. The Anti-Harassment System supports our efforts to prevent harassment from occurring, to stop it before it becomes severe or pervasive, and to conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into allegations of harassment, thus supporting our obligation to maintain a work environment free from discrimination, including harassment.
Anti-Harassment and Hostile Work Environment Case Tracking and Records System
The Social Security Administration (SSA) separately published, in today's Federal Register, notice of a new system of records, entitled Anti-Harassment & Hostile Work Environment Case Tracking and Records System. Because this system will contain some investigatory material compiled for law enforcement purposes, the SSA proposes to exempt those records within this new system of records from specific provisions of the Privacy Act.
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders; Correction
We published a document in the Federal Register revising our rules on September 26, 2016. That document inadvertently included incorrect amendatory instructions to appendix 1 to subpart P of 20 CFR part 404, removing section 114.00I and redesignating section 114.00J as section 114.00I. This document corrects the final regulation by removing that amendatory instruction.
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection and for Evaluating Functional Limitations in Immune System Disorders
We are revising the criteria in the Listing of Impairments (listings) that we use to evaluate claims involving human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). We also are revising the introductory text of the listings that we use to evaluate functional limitations resulting from immune system disorders. The revisions reflect our program experience, advances in medical knowledge, our adjudicative experience, recommendations from a commissioned report, and comments from medical experts and the public.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Law Enforcement Agency (Source Jurisdiction))-Match Number 5001
In accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act, as amended, this notice announces a renewal of an existing computer matching program that we are currently conducting with Source Jurisdiction.
Cost-of-Living Increase and Other Determinations for 2017
Under title II of the Social Security Act (Act), there will be a 0.3 percent cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits effective December 2016. In addition, the national average wage index for 2015 is $48,098.63. The cost-of-living increase and national average wage index affect other program parameters as described below.
Extension of the Expiration Date for State Disability Examiner Authority To Make Fully Favorable Quick Disability Determinations and Compassionate Allowance Determinations
We are extending, until December 28, 2018, the expiration date of our disability examiner authority (DEA) rule, which authorizes State agency disability examiners to make fully favorable determinations without the approval of a State agency medical or psychological consultant in claims that we consider under our quick disability determination (QDD) and compassionate allowance (CAL) processes. This is our last extension of this rule because we will phase out the use of DEA during the extension period under section 832 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA). This extension provides us the time necessary to take all of the administrative actions we need to take in order to reinstate uniform use of medical and psychological consultants. The current rule will expire on November 11, 2016. In this final rule, we are changing the November 11, 2016 expiration or ``sunset'' date to December 28, 2018, extending the authority for 2 years and 1 month. This is the final extension of our DEA rule. On December 28, 2018, at the conclusion of this extension, the authority for this test will terminate. We are making no other changes.
Unsuccessful Work Attempts and Expedited Reinstatement Eligibility
These rules finalize the rules we proposed in our notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), published on May 11, 2016. In these rules, we remove some of the requirements for evaluation of an unsuccessful work attempt (UWA) that lasts between 3 and 6 months, allow previously entitled beneficiaries to apply for expedited reinstatement (EXR) in the same month they stop performing substantial gainful activity (SGA), and provide that provisional benefits will begin the month after the request for EXR if the beneficiary stops performing SGA in the month of the EXR request. These changes will simplify our policies and make them easier for the public to understand.
Charging Standard Administrative Fees for Non-Program Information Requests for Detailed Social Security Earnings
On November 8, 2013,\1\ we announced in the Federal Register a new administrative fee we charge to the public for detailed yearly Social Security earnings information. We charge administrative fees to recover our full costs when we provide information and related services for non-program purposes. We are announcing an update to the previously published fee ($136) for detailed yearly Social Security earnings information.\2\
Charging Standard Administrative Fees for Non-Program Information
On August 22, 2012,\1\ we announced in the Federal Register a schedule of standardized administrative fees we charge to the public. We charge these fees to recover our full costs when we provide information and related services for non-program purposes. We are announcing an update to the previously published schedule of standardized administrative fees.\2\
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders
We are revising the criteria in the Listing of Impairments (listings) that we use to evaluate claims involving mental disorders in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). The revisions reflect our program experience, advances in medical knowledge, recommendations from a commissioned report, and public comments we received in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
Evidence From Excluded Medical Sources of Evidence
In accordance with section 812 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA section 812), these rules explain how we will address evidence furnished by medical sources that meet one of BBA section 812's exclusionary categories (excluded medical sources of evidence) as described below. Under these new rules, we will not consider evidence furnished by an excluded medical source of evidence unless we find good cause to do so. We identify five circumstances in which we may find good cause. In these rules, we also require excluded medical sources of evidence to notify us of their excluded status under section 223(d)(5)(C)(i) of the Social Security Act (Act), as amended, in writing each time they furnish evidence to us that relates to a claim for initial or continuing benefits under titles II or XVI of the Act. These rules will allow us to fulfill obligations that we have under BBA section 812.
Request for Information on Strategies for Improving Work Outcomes for Individuals With Musculoskeletal Disabilities
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 amended section 234 of the Social Security Act, which authorizes us to plan and implement new demonstration projects that waive certain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program requirements in order to evaluate strategies for improving work outcomes for SSDI beneficiaries and applicants. This request for information (RFI) seeks public input on possible demonstration projects designed to improve employment and earnings outcomes for individuals with musculoskeletal impairments. The input we receive will inform our deliberations about the possible design of a future demonstration project using the section 234 authority.
Revisions to Rules Regarding the Evaluation of Medical Evidence
We are proposing several revisions to our medical evidence rules. The proposals include redefining several key terms related to evidence, revising our list of acceptable medical sources (AMS), revising how we consider and articulate our consideration of medical opinions and prior administrative medical findings, revising who can be a medical consultant (MC) and psychological consultant (PC), revising our rules about treating sources, and reorganizing our evidence regulations for ease of use. These proposed revisions would conform our rules with the requirements of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA), reflect changes in the national healthcare workforce and in the manner that individuals receive primary medical care, simplify and reorganize our rules to make them easier to understand and apply, allow us to continue to make accurate and consistent decisions, and emphasize the need for objective medical evidence in disability and blindness claims.
Agreement on Social Security Between the United States and Hungary; Entry into Force
We are giving notice that an agreement coordinating the United States (U.S.) and Hungarian social security programs will enter into force on September 1, 2016. The agreement with Hungary, which was signed on February 3, 2015, is similar to U.S. social security agreements already in force with 25 other countriesAustralia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea (South), Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Section 233 of the Social Security Act authorizes agreements of this type. Like the other agreements, the U.S.-Hungarian agreement eliminates dual social security coverage. This situation exists when a worker from one country works in the other country and has coverage under the social security systems of both countries for the same work. When dual coverage occurs, the worker, the worker's employer, or both may be required to pay social security contributions to the two countries simultaneously without such agreements in force. Under the U.S.- Hungarian agreement, a worker who is sent by an employer in one country to work in the other country for five or fewer years remains covered only by the sending country. The agreement includes additional rules that eliminate dual U.S. and Hungarian coverage in other work situations. The agreement also helps eliminate situations where workers suffer a loss of benefit rights because they have divided their careers between the two countries. Under the agreement, workers may qualify for partial U.S. benefits or partial Hungarian benefits based on combined (totalized) work credits from both countries. Persons who wish to obtain copies of the agreement or want more information about its provisions may write to the Social Security Administration, Office of International Programs, Post Office Box 17741, Baltimore, MD 21235-7741 or visit the Social Security Web site at www.socialsecurity.gov/international.
Modifications to the Disability Determination Procedures; Extension of Testing of Some Disability Redesign Features
We are announcing the extension of tests involving modifications to disability determination procedures authorized by 20 CFR 404.906 and 416.1406. These rules authorize us to test several modifications to the disability determination procedures for adjudicating claims for disability insurance benefits under title II of the Social Security Act (Act) and for supplemental security income payments based on disability under title XVI of the Act. This notice is our last extension of the ``single decisionmaker'' test, as we will phase out the test until elimination in 2018. This notice also extends the separate ``prototype'' test.
Revisions to Rules of Conduct and Standards of Responsibility for Appointed Representatives
We propose to revise our rules of conduct and standards of responsibility for representatives. We also propose to update and clarify procedures we use when we bring charges against a representative for violating our rules of conduct and standards of responsibilities for representatives. These changes are necessary to better protect the integrity of our administrative process and further clarify representatives' currently existing responsibilities in their conduct with us. The changes to our rules are not meant to suggest that any specific conduct is permissible under our existing rules; instead, we seek to ensure that our rules of conduct and standards of responsibility are clearer as a whole and directly address a broader range of inappropriate conduct.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC))-Match Number 1004
In accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act, as amended, this notice announces a renewal of an existing computer matching program that we are currently conducting with DoD.