Extension of Expiration Date for Mental Disorders Body System Listings
We are extending the expiration date of the Mental Disorders body system in the Listing of Impairments (listings) in our regulations. We are making no other revisions to this body system in this final rule. This extension will ensure that we continue to have the criteria we need to evaluate mental disorders at step three of the sequential evaluation processes for initial claims and continuing disability reviews.
Open Government: Use of Genetic Information in Documenting and Evaluating Disability
We will host an online open government comment forum about the use of genetic information in the disability determination process. The forum is open to all members of the public during the dates listed below.
Electronic Interim Assistance Reimbursement Program
We reimburse States that provide interim assistance to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claimants under our interim assistance reimbursement (IAR) program. We provide this reimbursement from the SSI recipient's initial retroactive SSI payment. On November 20, 2010, we began using an electronic Interim Assistance Reimbursement system (eIAR) to streamline the way we process reimbursements to the States. The eIAR process replaced our prior paper-based process with an electronic one, and greatly reduced our and the State's involvement in manually processing IAR cases. This electronic system did not change the amount of payments we make to States and SSI recipients. We propose to revise our rules about how we administer the IAR process to reflect the electronic process. We also made minor language changes and reorganized the sections for clarity.
Agency Proposed Business Process Vision Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
On November 5, 2010, we published a Federal Register notice requesting comments regarding our self-evaluation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. We requested the public's ideas and suggestions on how we could best perform the self-evaluation. We received a limited number of comments from advocacy groups and individuals. On August 2, 2011, we published a second Federal Register notice announcing the two public forums we held in Falls Church, Virginia, where the public could provide us with comments in person or via telephone. The notice also requested written comments from those who preferred to communicate with us in writing. On October 24, 2011, we published a third Federal Register notice to extend the deadline to provide written comments. This Federal Register notice announces the modifications we propose to make to our business process based on our self-evaluation. A description of our business process vision under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is now available at www.socialsecurity.gov/ accessibility/section504. Our business process vision outlines the actions we are currently taking to implement many of the self- evaluation key findings and recommendations. Specifically, we are developing additional policies in this area to provide clear guidance to all SSA components. We developed and are continuing to develop electronic systems to capture information about the accommodations people tell us they need, and we trained and continue to train our employees about Section 504 and its requirements. Finally, we established a new organization, the Center for Section 504 Compliance, to oversee all of these efforts and manage the business process.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Centers for Medicare & 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 conduct with CMS.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Bureau of the Fiscal Service, Department of the Treasury (Fiscal Service))-Match Number 1038
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 Fiscal Service.
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Hematological Disorders
We propose to revise the criteria in the Listing of Impairments (listings) that we use to evaluate cases involving hematological disorders in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). The proposed revisions reflect advances in medical knowledge, our adjudicative experience, and information we received from medical experts and the public.
Cost-of-Living Increases and Other Determinations for 2014; Correction
The Social Security Administration published a document in the Federal Register of November 5, 2013, concerning the cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits effective December 2013. The document contains an incorrect number for the special minimum primary insurance amount (PIA) for 16 years of coverage.
Charging Standard Administrative Fees for Nonprogram-Related Information; Correction
The Social Security Administration published a document in the Federal Register of September 18, 2013, concerning a new fee for providing detailed and certified yearly Social Security earnings information for nonprogram-related purposes. The document contained unclear fee information and incorrect date for implementation.
Extension of the Expiration Date for State Disability Examiner Authority To Make Fully Favorable Quick Disability Determinations and Compassionate Allowances
We are extending the expiration date of our rules 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 rules will expire on November 12, 2013. In this final rule, we are changing the November 12, 2013 expiration or ``sunset'' date to November 14, 2014, extending the authority for 1 year. We are making no other substantive changes, although we are making minor, nonsubstantive editorial changes to the rule for clarity.
Cost-of-Living Increase and Other Determinations for 2014
Under title II of the Social Security Act (Act), there will be a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits effective December 2013. As a result of this increase, the following items will increase for 2014: (1) The maximum Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly benefit amounts for 2014 under title XVI of the Act will be $721 for an eligible individual, $1,082 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse, and $361 for an essential person; (2) The special benefit amount under title VIII of the Act for certain World War II veterans will be $540.75 for 2014; (3) The student earned income exclusion under title XVI of the Act will be $1,750 per month in 2014, but not more than $7,060 for all of 2014; (4) The dollar fee limit for services performed as a representative payee will be $40 per month ($77 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 2014; and (5) The dollar limit on the administrative-cost fee assessment charged to an appointed representative such as an attorney, agent, or other person who represents claimants will be $89 beginning in December 2013. The national average wage index for 2012 is $44,321.67. This index affects the following amounts: (1) The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) contribution and benefit base will be $117,000 for remuneration paid in 2014 and self-employment income earned in taxable years beginning in 2014; (2) The monthly exempt amounts under the OASDI retirement earnings test for taxable years ending in calendar year 2014 will be $1,290 for beneficiaries who will attain their Normal Retirement Age (NRA) (defined below) after 2014 and $3,450 for those who attain NRA in 2014; (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 2014 will be $816 and $4,917; (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 2014 will be $1,042, $1,505, and $1,962; (5) The amount of taxable earnings a person must have to be credited with a quarter of coverage in 2014 will be $1,200; (6) The ``old-law'' contribution and benefit base under title II of the Act will be $87,000 for 2014; (7) The monthly amount deemed to constitute substantial gainful activity (SGA) for statutorily blind individuals in 2014 will be $1,800, and the corresponding amount for non-blind disabled persons will be $1,070; (8) The earnings threshold establishing a month as a part of a trial work period will be $770 for 2014; and (9) Coverage thresholds for 2014 will be $1,900 for domestic workers and $1,600 for election officials and election workers.
Charging Standard Administrative Fees for Nonprogram-Related Information
On August 22, 2012,\1\ we announced in the Federal Register a schedule of standardized administrative fees we charge to recover the full cost of providing information and related services we provide to the public for nonprogram purposes. We are announcing the addition of a new standard fee to the previously published schedule of standardized administrative fees.
Medicare Determinations and Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts to Medicare Part B Premiums; Conforming Changes to Regulations
We are modifying our regulations regarding Medicare Part B income-related monthly adjustment amounts (IRMAA) in order to conform to changes made to the Social Security Act (Act) by the Affordable Care Act. This rule freezes the modified adjusted gross income threshold and ranges from 2011 through 2019 and removes the requirement that beneficiaries consent to our release of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) information to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the purpose of adjudicating any appeal of an IRMAA to the Part B premium subsidy. We are also removing provisions that phased in IRMAA between 2007 and 2009 and updating a citation to reflect the transfer of authority for hearing appeals under Title XVIII of the Act from the Social Security Administration to HHS.
Consent Based Social Security Number Verification (CBSV) Service
We provide fee-based Social Security number (SSN) verification services to enrolled private businesses, State and local government agencies who obtain a valid, signed consent form from the SSN holder. We originally published a notice announcing the CBSV service in the Federal Register on August 10, 2007. Based on the signed consent form, we verify the number holders' SSNs for the requesting party. The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 United States Code (U.S.C.) 552a(b)), section 1106 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1306) and our regulation at 20 Code of Federal Regulation 401.100, establish the legal authority for us to provide SSN verifications to third party requesters based on consent. The CBSV process provides users with a consent-based SSN verification service in high volume. We developed CBSV as a user- friendly, internet-based application with safeguards that protect the public's information. In addition to the benefit of providing high volume, centralized SSN verification services to users 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 $1.05 per SSN verification transaction in advance of services. We agreed to periodically calculate our costs for providing CBSV services and adjust the fees as necessary. We also agreed to notify current CBSV users of any cost adjustment to allow them to cancel or continue using the service at the new SSN verification transaction fee. Based on our most recent cost analysis, we will adjust the fiscal year 2014 fee to $1.10 per SSN verification transaction. New users must still pay the one-time $5,000 enrollment fee.
Extension of Expiration Dates for Two Body System Listings
We are extending the expiration dates of the following body systems in the Listing of Impairments (listings) in our regulations: Genitourinary Impairments and Hematological Disorders. We are making no other revisions to these body systems in this final rule. These extensions will ensure that we 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.
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Hearing Loss and Disturbances of Labyrinthine-Vestibular Function
We are requesting your comments on whether and how we should revise the criteria in our Listing of Impairments (listings) for evaluating hearing loss and disturbances of labyrinthine-vestibular function in adults and children. We are requesting your comments as part of our ongoing effort to ensure that our listings reflect current medical knowledge. If we propose specific revisions, we will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register.
Change in Terminology: “Mental Retardation” to “Intellectual Disability”
This final rule adopts, without change, the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) we published in the Federal Register on January 28, 2013. We are replacing the term ``mental retardation'' with ``intellectual disability'' in our 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) and in other appropriate sections of our rules. This change reflects the widespread adoption of the term ``intellectual disability'' by Congress, government agencies, and various public and private organizations.
Rules of Administrative Finality
We are requesting information from the public regarding whether and how we should change our rules of administrative finality. These rules govern when we can reopen and revise a determination or decision that has become final and is no longer subject to administrative or judicial review. We are requesting information about several possible ways to change various aspects of our administrative finality rules. We are interested in obtaining information about issues such as whether and how we should revise the rules that govern the timeframes in which we can reopen a determination or decision, and whether and how we should revise the rules that govern the diligent pursuit of an investigation. We are also interested in obtaining information about whether we should adopt rules that would address our ability to make prospective changes to the amount of an individual's benefits without making changes for months in which the individual has already received payment. We are requesting your comments on several questions that we address below.
Mailing of Tickets Under the Ticket To Work Program
This final rule adopts, without change, the interim final rule with request for comments we published in the Federal Register on January 12, 2012, at 77 FR 1862. The interim final rule modified our rules so that we may send a Ticket to Work (Ticket) to Ticket to Work program (Ticket program)-eligible disabled beneficiaries. Under our previous rules, we mailed initial Ticket notices to all Ticket-eligible beneficiaries immediately after they began receiving benefits, regardless of whether they were likely to participate in the program. This change did not affect Ticket eligibility requirements.
Extension of Sunset Date for Attorney Advisor Program
We are extending for 2 years our rule authorizing attorney advisors to conduct certain prehearing procedures and to issue fully favorable decisions. The current rule will expire on August 9, 2013. In this final rule, we are extending the sunset date to August 7, 2015. We are making no other substantive changes.
Extension of Effective Date for Temporary Pilot Program Setting the Time and Place for a Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge
We are extending our pilot program that authorizes the agency to set the time and place for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). This final rule will extend the pilot program for 1 year. The extension of the pilot program continues our commitment to improve the efficiency of our hearing process and maintain a hearing process that results in accurate, high-quality decisions for claimants. The current pilot program will expire on August 9, 2013. In this final rule, we are extending the effective date to August 9, 2014. We are making no other substantive changes.
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.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA)-Match Number 1014
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 internally.
Privacy Act of 1974, As Amended: Proposed New Routine Use
In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(4) and (e)(11)) and our disclosure regulations (20 CFR Part 401), we are issuing public notice of our intent to publish a new routine use applicable to our systems of records entitled: Master Files of Social Security Number (SSN) Holders and SSN Applications, (60-0058) (the Enumeration System) Earnings Recording and Self-Employment Income System, (60- 0059) Master Beneficiary Record (MBR), (60-0090) Prisoner Update Processing System (PUPS), (60-0269) The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-148), as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-152) (collectively, the ACA) requires the use of a single, streamlined application to determine eligibility for an Insurance Affordability Program (IAP), which includes: a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) through an Exchange, Advance Payments of the Premium Tax Credit (APTC), Cost-Sharing Reductions (CSR), Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Basic Health Program (BHP). As a part of the eligibility determination process, individuals may apply for an exemption from the individual responsibility requirement to maintain coverage (certification of exemption). The new routine use will enable SSA to disclose information to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)/Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to confirm the accuracy of attestations made by an individual to determine eligibility and entitlement to an IAP and identify individuals who qualify for certifications of exemption under the ACA. We discuss the routine use in detail in the Supplementary Information section below. We invite public comment on this proposal.
Changes to Scheduling and Appearing at Hearings
We propose to revise our rules to protect the integrity of our programs and preserve limited resources. Prior to scheduling a hearing, we will notify the claimant that his or her hearing may be held by video teleconferencing. The claimant will have an opportunity to object to appearing by video teleconferencing within 30 days after the date he or she receives the notice. We also propose changes that allow us to determine that a claimant will appear via video teleconferencing if he or she changes residences while his or her request for hearing is pending, regardless of whether or not the claimant previously declined a hearing by video teleconferencing. Additionally, we propose changes that require a claimant to notify us, in writing, of an objection to the time and place of hearing at the earliest opportunity, but not later than 5 days before the date set for the hearing, or, if earlier, 30 days after receiving the notice of the hearing. We also propose to revise our rules so that an administrative law judge (ALJ) can direct a claimant and any other party to a hearing to appear by telephone in extraordinary circumstances. We anticipate that these proposed changes will have a minimal impact on the public, and will help ensure the integrity of our programs and allow us to administer our programs more efficiently.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Bureau of the Fiscal Service (Fiscal Service))-Match Number 1304
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 Fiscal Service.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Railroad Retirement Board (RRB))-Match Number 1006
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 RRB.
Garnishment of Accounts Containing Federal Benefit Payments
Treasury, SSA, VA, RRB and OPM (Agencies) are adopting as final an interim rule to amend their regulation governing the garnishment of certain Federal benefit payments that are directly deposited to accounts at financial institutions. The rule establishes procedures that financial institutions must follow when they receive a garnishment order against an account holder who receives certain types of Federal benefit payments by direct deposit. The rule requires financial institutions that receive such a garnishment order to determine the sum of such Federal benefit payments deposited to the account during a two month period, and to ensure that the account holder has access to an amount equal to that sum or to the current balance of the account, whichever is lower.
Revised Listings for Growth Disorders and Weight Loss in Children
Several body systems in our Listing of Impairments (listings) contain listings for children based on impairment of linear growth or weight loss. We propose to replace those listings with new listings, add a listing to the genitourinary body system for children, and provide new introductory text for each listing explaining how to apply the new criteria. The proposed revisions to our listings reflect our program experience, advances in medical knowledge, comments we received from medical experts and the public at an outreach policy conference, and comments we received in response to a notice of intent to issue regulations and request for comments (request for comments) and an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM). We are also proposing conforming changes in our regulations for title XVI of the Social Security Act (Act).
Rules on Determining Hearing Appearances
This final rule is another step in our continual efforts to handle workloads more effectively and efficiently. We are publishing final rules for portions of the rules we proposed in October 2007 that relate to persons, other than the claimant or any other party to the hearing, appearing by telephone. We are also clarifying that the administrative law judge (ALJ) will allow the claimant or any other party to a hearing to appear by telephone under certain circumstances when the claimant or other party requests to make his or her appearance in that manner. We expect that these final rules will make the hearings process more efficient and help us continue to reduce the hearings backlog. In addition, we made some minor editorial changes to our regulations that do not have any effect on the rights of claimants or any other parties.