Rate for Assessment on Direct Payment Fees to Representatives in 2012
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 2012.
Employment Network (EN) Report Card
We are soliciting the input of beneficiaries, recipients, advocates, employment networks (ENs), other professionals, and the general public on the draft revised EN Report Card. An EN is a private or public entity that participates in the Ticket to Work (TTW) program and provides employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, or other support services to Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who are disabled. The EN Report Card is available at: EN Report Card Page. Disability beneficiaries and SSI recipients who want help with their work goals may use the EN Report Card to help them make informed choices about how to select ENs under the TTW program. The EN Report Card contains performance information about ENs. This information comes from our records, EN records, and beneficiary and recipient's satisfaction ratings of their EN.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA)) 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 LEA.
Social Security Rulings, SSR 91-1c and SSR 66-18c; Rescission of Social Security Rulings (SSR) 66-18c and SSR 91-1c
In accordance with 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1), the Commissioner of Social Security gives notice of the rescission of Social Security Rulings (SSR) 66-18c and SSR 91-1c.
Cost-of-Living Increase and Other Determinations for 2012
Under title II of the Social Security Act (Act), there will be a 3.6 percent cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits effective December 2011. As a result of this increase, the following items will increase for 2012: (1) The maximum Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly benefit amounts for 2012 under title XVI of the Act will be $698 for an eligible individual, $1,048 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse, and $350 for an essential person; (2) The special benefit amount under title VIII of the Act for certain World War II veterans will be $523.50 for 2012; (3) The student earned income exclusion under title XVI of the Act will be $1,700 per month in 2012, but not more than $6,840 for all of 2012; (4) The dollar fee limit for services performed as a representative payee will be $38 per month ($75 per month in the case of a beneficiary who is disabled and has an alcoholism or drug addiction condition that leaves him or her incapable of managing benefits) in 2012; and (5) The dollar limit on the administrative-cost assessment charged to attorneys representing claimants will be $86 in 2012. The national average wage index for 2010 is $41,673.83. This index affects the following amounts: (1) The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) contribution and benefit base will be $110,100 for remuneration paid in 2012 and self-employment income earned in taxable years beginning in 2012; (2) The monthly exempt amounts under the OASDI retirement earnings test for taxable years ending in calendar year 2012 will be $1,220, for years prior to the year in which a person attains his or her Normal Retirement Age (NRA) and $3,240, for the year in which a person attains his or her NRA; (3) The dollar amounts (``bend points'') used in the primary insurance amount (PIA) benefit formula for workers who become eligible for benefits, or who die before becoming eligible, in 2012 will be $767 and $4,624; (4) The bend points used in the formula for computing maximum family benefits for workers who become eligible for benefits, or who die before becoming eligible, in 2012 will be $980, $1,415, and $1,845; (5) The amount of taxable earnings a person must have to be credited with a quarter of coverage in 2012 will be $1,130; (6) The ``old-law'' contribution and benefit base under title II of the Act will be $81,900 for 2012; (7) The monthly amount deemed to constitute substantial gainful activity for statutorily blind individuals in 2012 will be $1,690, and the corresponding amount for non-blind disabled persons will be $1,010; (8) The earnings threshold establishing a month as a part of a trial work period will be $720 for 2012; and (9) Coverage thresholds for 2012 will be $1,800 for domestic workers and $1,500 for election officials and election workers.
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Congenital Disorders That Affect Multiple Body Systems
We propose to revise the criteria in the Listing of Impairments (listings) that we use to evaluate cases involving impairments that affect multiple body systems in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). The proposed revisions reflect our program experience and address adjudicator questions we have received since we last comprehensively revised this body system in 2005. We do not expect any decisional differences due the revisions in this body system.
Agency Self-Evaluation Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Public Forums on Accessibility for Individuals With Disabilities; Extension of Comment Period
On August 2, 2011, we announced in the Federal Register that we were soliciting oral and written comments at two Section 504 Self- Evaluation Forums. We stated that the deadline for written comments was October 31, 2011. We are extending the written comment deadline by 15 days to match the date we publicly announced at the August forum. Deadline for Comments: To ensure that your written comments are considered, we must receive them no later than November 15, 2011. Written Comments: If you are not available to participate real-time in the public forums, we encourage you to submit written comments by Internet, fax, or mail. If you submitted oral comments at a public forum, you may also submit additional comments in writing. In your submission, please state that your comments refer to Docket No. SSA- 2011-0035 so that we may associate your comments with the correct document. Caution: You should be careful to include in your comments only information that you wish to make publicly available. We strongly urge you not to include in your comments any personal information, such as Social Security numbers or medical information. Internet: We strongly recommend that you submit your comments via the Internet. Please visit the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Use the Search function to find docket number SSA-2011-0035. The system will issue a tracking number to confirm your submission. You will not be able to view your comment immediately because we must post each comment manually. It may take up to a week for your comment to be viewable. Fax: Fax comments to (410) 966-2830. Mail: Address your comments to the Office of Regulations, Social Security Administration, 107 Altmeyer Building, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21235-6401. Comments are available for public viewing on the Federal eRulemaking portal at http:// www.regulations.gov or in person, during regular business hours, by arranging with the contact person identified below.
Amendments to Procedures for Certain Determinations and Decisions
We are revising the procedures for how claimants who receive fully favorable revised determinations based on prehearing case reviews or fully favorable attorney advisor decisions may seek further review. We are also revising our procedure to provide that we will notify claimants who receive partially favorable determinations based on prehearing case reviews that an administrative law judge (ALJ) will still hold a hearing unless all parties to the hearing tell us in writing that we should dismiss the hearing request. These changes will simplify our administrative review process and free up scarce administrative resources that we can better use to reduce the hearings- level case backlog.
Rescission of Social Security Ruling 97-2p
In accordance with 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1), the Commissioner of Social Security gives notice of the rescission of Social Security Ruling (SSR) 97-2p.
Recovery of Delinquent Debts-Treasury Offset Program Enhancements
We are amending our Tax Refund Offset (TRO) and Administrative Offset regulations. We are conforming our regulations to those of the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) for the following reasons: Treasury removed the 10-year limitation to collect delinquent debts owed the United States by reducing eligible Federal payments, and more States are participating in reciprocal agreements with Treasury to offset State payments, including tax refunds to reduce or extinguish a federally owed debt. These changes will allow us to collect additional Federal debt.
Consent Based Social Security Number Verification (CBSV) Service
We provide limited fee-based Social Security number (SSN) verification service to private businesses and other requesters 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 disclosures 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 $5.00 per 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 2012 fee to $1.05 per transaction. New customers will still be responsible for the one-time $5,000 enrollment fee.
Expedited Vocational Assessment Under the Sequential Evaluation Process
We propose to give adjudicators the discretion to proceed to the fifth step of the sequential evaluation process for assessing disability when we have insufficient information about a claimant's past relevant work history to make the findings required for step 4. If an adjudicator finds at step 5 that a claimant may be unable to adjust to other work existing in the national economy, the adjudicator would return to the fourth step to develop the claimant's work history and make a finding about whether the claimant can perform his or her past relevant work. This proposed new process would not disadvantage any claimant or change the ultimate conclusion about whether a claimant is disabled, but it would promote administrative efficiency and help us make more timely disability determinations and decisions.
Titles II and XVI: Documenting and Evaluating Disability in Young Adults
In accordance with 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1), the Commissioner of Social Security gives notice of Social Security Ruling, SSR-11-2p. This Ruling explains our policy on documenting and evaluating disability in young adults.
Requiring Use of Electronic Services by Certain Claimant Representatives
We are revising our rules to require that claimant representatives use our electronic services as they become available on matters for which the representatives request direct fee payment. In the future, we will publish a notice in the Federal Register when we require representatives who request direct fee payment on a matter to use our available electronic services. We are also adding the requirement to use our available electronic services on matters for which the representative requests direct fee payment as an affirmative duty in our representative conduct rules. These revisions reflect the increased use of technology in representatives' business practices. We expect that the use of electronic services will improve our efficiency by allowing us to manage our workloads more effectively. These rules do not require claimants to use our available electronic services directly; they only require their representatives to use the services on matters for which the representatives request direct fee payment.
Protecting the Public and Our Personnel to Ensure Operational Effectiveness
We are publishing the process we follow when we ban an individual from entering our field offices. Due to escalating reports of threats to our personnel and our customers in our offices, we are taking steps to increase the level of protection we provide. We expect that this rule will result in a safer environment for our personnel and members of the public who use our facilities, while ensuring that we continue to serve the American people with as little disruption to our operations as possible.
Agency Self-Evaluation Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Public Forums on Accessibility for Individuals With Disabilities
On November 5, 2010, we announced that we were initiating a self-evaluation of our policies and practices supporting Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 requires Federal agencies to provide meaningful access to their programs, activities, and facilities for qualified persons with disabilities.
Social Security Ruling 11-1p; Titles II and XVI: Procedures for Handling Requests To File Subsequent Applications for Disability Benefits
We are giving notice of SSR 11-1p, in which we explain our new procedures for handling your request to file a disability claim when you have a pending claim of the same title and benefit type in our administrative review process. This change will allow us to more efficiently use our limited resources to handle the increase in the number of initial disability claims that we have seen in light of the economic downturn.
Revisions to Direct Fee Payment Rules
We are revising our rules to implement amendments to the Social Security Act (Act) made by the Social Security Disability Applicants' Access to Professional Representation Act of 2010 (PRA). We are making permanent the direct fee payment rules for eligible non- attorney representatives under titles II and XVI of the Act and for attorney representatives under title XVI of the Act. We also are revising some of our eligibility policies for non-attorney representatives under titles II and XVI of the Act.
Electronic Substitutions for Form SSA-538
We are revising our regulations to reflect our use of electronic case processing at the initial and reconsideration levels of our administrative review process. Our prior rule required adjudicators at these levels to complete a Form SSA-538, Childhood Disability Evaluation Form, in all cases of children alleging disability or continuing disability under title XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). However, we developed and now use a Web-based tool that assists our adjudicators in making disability determinations in several States, and we plan to expand its use to other States. We are revising our regulation to reflect the new tool. We are not changing the requirement that State agency medical and psychological consultants must affirm the accuracy and completeness of their findings of fact and discussion of the supporting evidence, only the manner in which they may provide the required findings and affirmation. We expect that this revision will improve our efficiency by increasing our use of electronic resources.
Amendments to Regulations Regarding Major Life-Changing Events Affecting Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts to Medicare Part B Premiums
This final rule adopts, without change, the interim final rule with request for comments we published in the Federal Register on July 15, 2010 at 75 FR 41084. The interim final rule concerned what we consider major life-changing events for the Medicare Part B income- related monthly adjustment amount (IRMAA) and what evidence we require to support a claim of a major life-changing event. This final rule allows us to respond appropriately to circumstances brought about by the current economic climate and other unforeseen events, as described below.
Retrospective Review Under E.O. 13563
In accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13563, ``Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,'' we are announcing that our preliminary plan for retrospective review is available for public comment. We are now requesting comments on the plan.
On behalf of the Accessibility Committee of the Federal Chief Information Officers Council; Listening Session Regarding Improving the Accessibility of Government Information
This notice announces a listening session that the CIO Council is conducting in response to a memo dated July 19, 2010 from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on ``Improving the Accessibility of Government Information''. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d) requires Federal agencies to buy and use electronic and information technology (EIT) that is accessible. The July memo directs agencies to take stronger steps toward improving the acquisition and implementation of accessible technology. In order to better understand the needs of diverse communities and provide better solutions, the Federal Chief Information Officers Council (CIOC), in collaboration with the Chief Acquisition Officers Council, the GSA Office of Governmentwide Policy and the U.S. Access Board, has held several in a series of listening sessions to engage citizens and employees in expressing concerns and proposing ideas. The next listening session will be at Stanford University 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305 and will include time for generating a dialogue with technology companies. It will also include time for general comments from the public. Representatives from technology companies, persons with disabilities, their advocates, and government employees are invited to participate.