Cost-of-Living Increase and Other Determinations for 2016
There will be no cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits effective December 2015. The national average wage index for 2014 is $46,481.52. The cost-of-living increase and national average wage index affect other program parameters as described below.
Vocational Factors of Age, Education, and Work Experience in the Adult Disability Determination Process; Extending of the Comment Period
On September 14, 2015, we published in the Federal Register an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding Vocational Factors of Age, Education, and Work Experience in the Adult Disability Determination Process and solicited public comments. We provided a 60- day comment period ending on November 13, 2015. We are extending the comment period to December 14, 2015. Our extension of the comment date accommodates and facilitates public comments we expect in response to the National Disability Forum we are sponsoring on Friday, November 20, 2015. During the forum, we are hosting a moderator-led discussion entitled: The Realities of Work for Individuals with Disabilities: Impact of Age, Education, and Work Experience (for information on the forum see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section).
Returning Evidence at the Appeals Council Level
We propose to amend our regulations by revising our rules regarding the return of evidence at the Appeals Council (AC) level. Our current rules state that the AC will return to the claimant additional evidence it receives when the AC finds the evidence does not relate to the period on or before the date of the administrative law judge's (ALJ) hearing decision. We are proposing these revisions to give the AC discretion in returning additional evidence that it receives when the AC determines the additional evidence does not relate to the period on or before the date of the ALJ decision.
Extension of the Expiration Date for State Disability Examiner Authority To Make Fully Favorable Quick Disability Determinations and Compassionate Allowance Determinations
We are extending the expiration date of our rule that 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. The current rule will expire on November 13, 2015. In this final rule, we are changing the November 13, 2015 expiration or ``sunset'' date to November 11, 2016, extending the authority for 1 year. We are making no other substantive changes.
Collection of Administrative Debts
This final rule adopts the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that we published in the Federal Register on March 24, 2014. This final rule creates our own administrative debt collection regulations, and it improves our authorities to pursue collection of administrative debts from current and separated employees and non- employee debtors as authorized by the Debt Collection Act (DCA) of 1982, amended by the Debt Collection Improvement Act (DCIA) of 1996 and other existing debt collection statutes. We expect that this final rule will have no impact on the public.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Office of Personnel Management (OPM))-Match Numbers 1005, 1019, 1020, and 1021
In accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act, as amended, this notice announces a renewal of existing computer matching programs that we are currently conducting with OPM.
Consent Based Social Security Number Verification (CBSV) Service
We provide fee-based Social Security number (SSN) verification services 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 signed 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 $3.10 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 2016 fee to $1.40 per SSN verification transaction. New customers will still be responsible for the one-time $5,000 enrollment fee.