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.
Ensuring Program Uniformity at the Hearing and Appeals Council Levels of the Administrative Review Process
On July 12, 2016, we published in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for Ensuring Program Uniformity at the Hearing and Appeals Council Levels of the Administrative Review Process. We provided a 30-day comment period ending on August 11, 2016. We are extending the comment period for 15 days.
Extension of Expiration Dates for Four Body System Listings
We are extending the expiration dates of the following body systems in the Listing of Impairments (listings) in our regulations: Musculoskeletal System, Cardiovascular System, Digestive System, and Skin Disorders. We are making no other revisions to these body systems in this final rule. This extension ensures that we will continue to have the criteria we need to evaluate impairments in the affected body systems at step three of the sequential evaluation processes for initial claims and continuing disability reviews.
Privacy Act of 1974; Proposed Modified System of Records
In accordance with the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a) we are issuing public notice of our intent to modify an existing system of records entitled, Electronic Freedom of Information Act (eFOIA) System (60-0340), last published at 70 FR 3571 (January 25, 2005). This notice publishes details of the proposed updates as set forth below under the caption SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.
Ensuring Program Uniformity at the Hearing and Appeals Council Levels of the Administrative Review Process
We propose to revise our rules so that more of our procedures at the administrative law judge (ALJ) 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.
Consent Based Social Security Number Verification (CBSV) Service
We provide fee-based Social Security number (SSN) verification service to enrolled private businesses and government agencies who obtain a valid, signed consent form from the Social Security number holder. We originally published a notice announcing the CBSV service in the Federal Register on August 10, 2007. Based on the consent forms, we verify the number holders' SSNs for the requesting party. The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a(b)), section 1106 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1306) and our regulation at 20 CFR 401.100, establish the legal authority for us to provide SSN verifications to third party requesters based on consent. The CBSV process provides the business community and other government entities with consent-based SSN verifications in high volume. We developed CBSV as a user-friendly, internet-based application with safeguards that will protect the public's information. In addition to the benefit of providing high volume, centralized SSN verification services to the business community in a secure manner, CBSV provides us with cost and workload management benefits. New Information: To use CBSV, interested parties must pay a one- time non-refundable enrollment fee of $5,000. Currently, users also pay a fee of $1.40 per SSN verification transaction in advance of services. We agreed to calculate our costs periodically for providing CBSV services and adjust the fees as needed. We also agreed to notify our customers who currently use the service and allow them to cancel or continue using the service at the new transaction fee. Based on the most recent cost analysis, we will adjust the fiscal year 2017 fee to $1.00 per SSN verification transaction. New customers will still be responsible for the one-time $5,000 enrollment fee.
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Neurological Disorders
We are revising the criteria in the Listing of Impairments (listings) that we use to evaluate disability claims involving neurological disorders in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). These revisions reflect our program experience; advances in medical knowledge, treatment, and methods of evaluating neurological disorders; comments we received from medical experts and the public at an outreach policy conference; responses to an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM); and public comments we received in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and a Federal Register notice that reopened the NPRM comment period.
Penalty Inflation Adjustments for Civil Money Penalties
In accordance with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, and further amended by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, section 701: Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, this interim final rule incorporates the penalty inflation adjustments for the civil money penalties contained in the Social Security Act.
Extension of Effective Date for Temporary Pilot Program Setting the Time and Place for a Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge
We are extending for one year our pilot program that authorizes the agency to set the time and place for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Extending the pilot program continues our commitment to improve the efficiency of our hearing process and to maintain a hearing process that results in accurate, high-quality decisions for claimants. The current pilot program will expire on August 12, 2016. In this final rule, we are extending the effective date to August 11, 2017. We are making no other changes.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS))-Match Number 1076
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 CMS.
Evidence From Statutorily Excluded Medical Sources
In accordance with section 812 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA section 812), we propose to revise our rules to explain how we would address evidence furnished by medical sources that meet one of BBA section 812's exclusionary categories (statutorily excluded medical sources). Under this proposed rule, we would not consider evidence furnished by a statutorily excluded medical source unless we find good cause to do so. We propose several circumstances in which we would find good cause, and we also propose to require statutorily excluded medical sources to notify us of their excluded status when they furnish evidence to us. These rules would allow us to fulfill obligations that we have under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA).
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Respiratory System Disorders
We are revising the criteria in the Listing of Impairments (listings) that we use to evaluate claims involving respiratory disorders in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). The revisions reflect our program experience and advances in medical knowledge since we last comprehensively revised this body system in 1993, as well as comments we received from medical experts and the public.
Supplementary Agreement Amending the Agreement on Social Security Between the United States and the Czech Republic; Entry Into Force
The Acting Commissioner of Social Security gives notice that a supplementary agreement coordinating the United States (U.S.) and the Czech Republic social security programs will enter into force on May 1, 2016. The original agreement with the Czech Republic was signed on September 7, 2007. The intent of the original agreement was that workers covered exclusively under U.S. laws while working in the Czech Republic would be exempt from the Czech health insurance contributions. A change in Czech law after the signing of the original 2007 agreement caused these workers to be liable for Czech health insurance taxes. This result was inconsistent with the purpose of the totalization agreement to eliminate duplicate taxation as permitted by 42 U.S.C. 433 and 26 U.S.C. 3101(c). The supplementary agreement exempts a worker subject exclusively to U.S. laws from contributing to the Czech health insurance system. The supplementary agreement achieves this by placing the new Czech health insurance law, the Act on Public Health, within the scope of the 2007 U.S.-Czech Agreement. Individuals 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.