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.
Social Security Acquiescence Ruling (AR) 15-1(4), Radford v. Colvin: Standard for Meeting the Listing for Disorders of the Spine With Evidence of Nerve Root Compression
This Social Security AR explains how we will apply a holding in a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that we determined conflicts with our interpretation of the section in the Listing of Impairments (the Listings) that addresses disorders of the spine with evidence of nerve root compression.
Vocational Factors of Age, Education, and Work Experience in the Adult Disability Determination Process
We are soliciting public input about how we should consider the vocational factors of age, education, and work experience in adult disability claims under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). There have been significant changes in technology use and workforce demographics since we first adopted our vocational factor regulations in 1978. We are requesting public comments, along with any supporting data, to assist in our efforts to streamline, simplify, and ensure the ongoing relevance of our disability determination programs.
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 of 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 10, 2015. In this final rule, we are extending the effective date to August 12, 2016. We are making no other substantive changes.
Sixty-Month Period of Employment Requirement for Government Pension Offset Exemption
This final rule adopts, with clarifying changes, the proposed rule we previously published in the Federal Register on August 3, 2007. This final rule revises our Government Pension Offset (GPO) regulations to reflect changes to the Social Security Act (``Act'') made by section 9007 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA 1987) and section 418 of the Social Security Protection Act of 2004 (SSPA). These regulations explain how and when we will reduce the Social Security spouse's benefit for some people who receive Federal, State, or local government pensions if Social Security did not cover their government work.
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 7, 2015. In this final rule, we are extending the sunset date to August 4, 2017. We are making no other substantive changes.
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
We are revising the criteria in parts A and B of the Listing of Impairments (listings) that we use to evaluate claims involving cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases) under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). These revisions reflect our adjudicative experience, advances in medical knowledge, recommendations from medical experts we consulted, and public comments we received in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Office of Personnel Management (OPM)-Match Number 1307
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 OPM.
Request for Information on Early Intervention Strategies for Serving Individuals With Disabilities
The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (Pub. L. 113-235), provided us with money under section 1110 of the Social Security Act to begin the design, development, and implementation of an early intervention demonstration to test innovative strategies aimed at helping people with disabilities remain in the workforce. The President's FY 2016 Budget requested additional funds to support a complete demonstration project. In order to inform the development of that demonstration, this request for information (RFI) seeks recommendations on targeted design features related to improving employment and earnings outcomes for people with disabilities, specifically individuals with mental impairments. The input we receive will inform and complement ongoing interagency deliberations about the best use of funds for an initial demonstration project relevant to future policy discussions for the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs.
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Hematological Disorders
We are revising 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). These revisions reflect our adjudicative experience, advances in medical knowledge, diagnosis, and treatment, and public comments we received in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
Public Availability of Social Security Administration Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Service Contract Inventory
In accordance with Section 743 of Division C of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-117), we are publishing this notice to advise the public of the availability of the FY 2014 Service Contract inventory. This inventory provides information on FY 2014 service contract actions over $25,000. We organized the information by function to show how we distribute contracted resources throughout the agency. We developed the inventory in accordance with guidance issued on November 5, 2010 by the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP). OFPP's guidance is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/ procurement/memo/service-contract-inventories-guidance-110520 10.pdf. You can access the inventory and summary of the inventory on our homepage at the following link: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/sci.
Revised Listings for Growth Disorders and Weight Loss in Children
This rule adopts, with one change, the rule for evaluating growth disorders in children we proposed in a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register on May 22, 2013. Several body systems in the Listing of Impairments (listings) contain listings for children based on impairment of linear growth or weight loss. We are replacing those listings with new listings for low birth weight (LBW) and failure to thrive; a new listing for genitourinary impairments; and revised listings for growth failure in combination with a respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, or immune system disorder. These revisions reflect our program experience, advances in medical knowledge, and comments we received from medical experts and the public.
Social Security Ruling, SSR 15-1p; Titles II and XVI: Evaluating Cases Involving Interstitial Cystitis (IC); Correction
The Social Security Administration published a document in the Federal Register of March 18, 2015, in FR Doc. 2015-05680, on page 14217, in the first column, in section ``D,'' in the second sentence, delete ``and dimethyl sulfoxide''.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS))-Match Number 1305
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 IRS.
Submission of Evidence in Disability Claims
We are clarifying our regulations to require you to inform us about or submit all evidence known to you that relates to your disability claim, subject to two exceptions for certain privileged communications. This requirement includes the duty to submit all evidence that relates to your disability claim received from any source in its entirety, unless you previously submitted the same evidence to us or we instruct you otherwise. We are also requiring your representative to help you obtain the information or evidence that we require you to submit under our regulations. These modifications to our regulations will better describe your duty to submit all evidence that relates to your disability claim and enable us to have more complete case records on which to make more accurate disability determinations and decisions.
Social Security Ruling, SSR 15-1p; Titles II and XVI: Evaluating Cases Involving Interstitial Cystitis (IC)
We are providing notice of SSR 15-1p. This SSR provides guidance on how we develop evidence to establish that a person has a medically determinable impairment of interstitial cystitis (IC), and how we evaluate IC in disability claims and continuing disability reviews under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.
Social Security Number Card Applications
We propose to revise our regulations to allow applicants for a Social Security number (SSN) card to apply by completing a prescribed application and submitting the required evidence, rather than completing a paper Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. We also propose to remove the word ``documentary'' from our description of certain evidence requirements. These changes would provide flexibility in the ways in which the public may request SSN cards and allow us, in the future, to implement an online SSN replacement card application system, which we are currently developing. In addition, we propose to replace ``Immigration and Naturalization Service'' with ``Department of Homeland Security'' to reflect that agency's reorganization.
Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended; Computer Matching Program (SSA/Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE))-Match Number 1306
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 OCSE.