Public Benefits Task Force

Trustees Report on the Social Security Trust Funds

On June 5, 2018 the Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. Social Security is NOT going bankrupt.

The OASI Trust Fund (retirement and survivors’ benefits) is projected to become depleted in late 2034, as compared to last year’s estimate of early 2035, with 77 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund (disability benefits) will become depleted in 2032, extended from last year’s estimate of 2028, with 96 percent of benefits still payable.

With no action from Congress, Social Security can continue to provide 100% of the retirement benefits people are owed until 2034. After that, even if absolutely no changes were made, beneficiaries would still receive 77% of their benefits. People receiving disability benefits will get their full benefit check until 2032 and, if Congress makes no changes, they will receive 96% of their benefits thereafter.

You can read the entire report by clicking here.

The Baltimore Social Security office at the Rotunda will close June 22, 2018.

Social Security is closing many local offices nationwide, perhaps as many as 125 since 2000. This makes it more difficult for the elderly and people with disablities to access services and get information.

Read more at: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-social-security-office-closing-20180516-story.html

How Medicaid Work Requirements Will Harm Older Adults & Family Caregivers

Justice in Aging explains how work requirements and onerous reporting obligations create barriers to health care access for many older adults, people with disabilities and serious health conditions, and family caregivers who rely on Medicaid.  http://www.justiceinaging.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/How-Medicaid-Work-Requirements-Will-Harm-Older-Adults-Family-Caregivers.pdf?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=1dd68041-dfb6-4dc3-9bf5-48b7d85d7599

A new law will bring added oversight to Social Security's representative payee program. (From Disability Scoop)

Trump Signs Bill Adding Protections For Social Security, SSI Recipients

by Shaun Heasley | April 17, 2018

Individuals tasked with handling Social Security payments for people with disabilities will be subject to greater scrutiny under a new law signed by President Donald Trump.

The president signed the measure known as the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018, or H.R. 4547, late last week after it was unanimously approved by Congress.

The legislation will impose greater oversight on representative payees who manage Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for those who need assistance.

Specifically, the law bars people with certain types of criminal convictions from acting as representative payees and prevents individuals who have representative payees themselves from serving in that capacity for others. And, it will give beneficiaries more say in who handles money on their behalf by allowing Social Security recipients to make a list of their preferred payees in order of preference.

Meanwhile, the legislation will require that protection and advocacy groups in each state — federally-mandated organizations that provide legal assistance and advocate for people with disabilities — conduct more reviews of representative payee performance on behalf of the Social Security Administration.

In addition to enhancing oversight, the measure will also eliminate a requirement that parents or spouses living with a person with a disability complete an annual accounting form for representative payees.

“This new law is great news for the millions of Social Security beneficiaries who rely on a representative payee to help them manage their benefits,” said U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who sponsored the legislation. “Not only will it provide much-needed accountability for the representative payee program, but it also puts measures into place that ensure newly selected representative payees are qualified and trustworthy.”

According to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, some 6.2 million individuals or organizations act as representative payees on behalf of about 8 million beneficiaries. Such representatives are assigned if the agency determines that a person’s mental or physical condition prevents them from being able to manage their benefits.

Proponents of the legislation cited concerns from the Government Accountability Office, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, the National Academy of Sciences and the Social Security Advisory Board about how Social Security officials have administered the representative payee program.

“For too long dishonest representative payees have exploited and abused people with disabilities without fear of being discovered,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, an umbrella group for the nation’s protection and advocacy organizations. “That stops today. We are thrilled to see that Congress has acted to protect the more than 8 million Americans who currently have representative payees.”

Elder Law articles

The MSBA Bar Bulletin, April 15, 2018, has a lot of good substantive articles on elder law topics - Adv Directives and MOLST, Guardianship changes, Social Security Disability changes, ABLE, new Medicare cards and MA-LTC rules about protecting the home under the Parental Care Rule.

New Budget Increases Some Programs for the Elderly

From Justice in Aging:

FY 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill Includes Increased Funding for Older Adult Programs

The FY 2018 omnibus spending bill (H.R. 1625), signed Friday by President Trump, included significant increases for vital Older Americans Act programs, as well as continued funding to support the administrative aspects of the Social Security Administration and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The bill included:

  • Social Security: A proposed budget increase of $388 million for the Social Security administrative fund. $280 million is set aside specifically for modernizing the agency’s IT infrastructure, and $100 million for reducing the backlog of appeal hearings.  
  • Housing: $678 million for the Section 202 program that provides assistance to older adults, including $105 million for new Section 202 construction and project-based rental assistance. It expands rental assistance for Section 202 Housing for the Elderly communities, provides funding for new construction for housing for people with disabilities, and increases funding for Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, and homeless assistance, among other programs. 
  • Health: $49 million in funding for State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) for FY18, which is a $2 million increase from FY17, but still $3 million less than FY 2016.
  • Energy Assistance: $250 million increase for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), for a total of $3.6 billion.
  • Nutrition: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding at $74 billion, a $4.5 billion cut (nearly 6%) from FY 2017. The bill also allows for work requirements.
  • Community Services: Level funding for the Community Services Block Grant at $715 million, and the Social Services Block Grant at $1.7 billion. The Community Development Block Grant received a $300 million (10 percent) boost to $3.3 billion.
  • Legal Services and Elder Justice: $410 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a $25 million overall increase from FY 2017 levels. The Older Americans Act, Title IIIB Supportive Services received a 10% increase, for a funding level of $385 million. Adult Protective Services (APS) and the Elder Justice Initiative received increased funding of $12 million, a $2 million increase.


The package that passed did not include other health care bills that we were watching, such as the EMPOWER Care Act (S.2227, H.R. 5306), which would extend the Medicaid Money Follows the Person Program, and the BENES Act (S.1909, H.R.2575), which would simplify and improve the Medicare Part B enrollment process.

Contact Us

Justice in Aging
(202) 289-6976
info@justiceinaging.org
View as webpage

New Budget Increases Some Programs for the Elderly

From Justice in Aging:

FY 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill Includes Increased Funding for Older Adult Programs

The FY 2018 omnibus spending bill (H.R. 1625), signed Friday by President Trump, included significant increases for vital Older Americans Act programs, as well as continued funding to support the administrative aspects of the Social Security Administration and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The bill included:

  • Social Security: A proposed budget increase of $388 million for the Social Security administrative fund. $280 million is set aside specifically for modernizing the agency’s IT infrastructure, and $100 million for reducing the backlog of appeal hearings.  
  • Housing: $678 million for the Section 202 program that provides assistance to older adults, including $105 million for new Section 202 construction and project-based rental assistance. It expands rental assistance for Section 202 Housing for the Elderly communities, provides funding for new construction for housing for people with disabilities, and increases funding for Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, and homeless assistance, among other programs. 
  • Health: $49 million in funding for State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) for FY18, which is a $2 million increase from FY17, but still $3 million less than FY 2016.
  • Energy Assistance: $250 million increase for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), for a total of $3.6 billion.
  • Nutrition: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding at $74 billion, a $4.5 billion cut (nearly 6%) from FY 2017. The bill also allows for work requirements.
  • Community Services: Level funding for the Community Services Block Grant at $715 million, and the Social Services Block Grant at $1.7 billion. The Community Development Block Grant received a $300 million (10 percent) boost to $3.3 billion.
  • Legal Services and Elder Justice: $410 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a $25 million overall increase from FY 2017 levels. The Older Americans Act, Title IIIB Supportive Services received a 10% increase, for a funding level of $385 million. Adult Protective Services (APS) and the Elder Justice Initiative received increased funding of $12 million, a $2 million increase.


The package that passed did not include other health care bills that we were watching, such as the EMPOWER Care Act (S.2227, H.R. 5306), which would extend the Medicaid Money Follows the Person Program, and the BENES Act (S.1909, H.R.2575), which would simplify and improve the Medicare Part B enrollment process.

Contact Us

Justice in Aging
(202) 289-6976
info@justiceinaging.org
View as webpage

SSA's Data on Hearing Delays at Office of Hearings Operations (formerly ODAR) Locations

The Soc. Sec. Admin. releases data the average time (in months) from the date of the hearing request until a hearing was held for cases closed in the Office of Hearings Operations' hearing offices or national hearing centers.

Baltimore City   17 months

Natiional Hearing Cntr, Balt.  17.5 months

Dover, DE  17 months

Morgantown, WV  21 months

Washington 20 months

https://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/01_NetStat_Report.html

Social Security and SSI benefits to increase by 2% in 2018

Social Security and SSI benefits to increase by 2% in 2018

2017 Welfare Advocates Conference

The 2017 Welfare Advocates Conference is coming up on November 2 at the Radisson Hotel in Timonium, MD. This year, we are excited that our keynote speaker will be Marc Steiner, and he'll be talking about how to amplify the stories and voices of individuals who are marginalized. We are also having an interactive closing plenary where local leaders –including the CEOs of United Way, Catholic Charities, Advocates for Children and Youth, and the Jobs Opportunity Task Force - are being pitched the question "How Do We End Poverty?" that they’ll each answer from their own perspectives. Our theme this year is Casting a Wide Net, speaking to the need for inclusivity in our organizations, in our communities, and in our policies. Along that theme, we are having workshops on assisting our immigrant neighbors, working with LGBTQ youth, and violence prevention efforts in West Baltimore, among others. Our 1-day conference also offers 5 Category 1 CEUs for social workers! Need more convincing? On top of a delicious Italian lunch, we have incredible door prizes this year including (for the first time) tickets to the National Aquarium, tickets to see Madam Butterfly, two different ski packages at two different resorts, and several area restaurant gift cards! 


For more information - and to register - please follow this link: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07eemdqtmk39.... It's really a great conference and we hope to see you there!

Social Security Adds Three Health Conditions to the Compassionate Allowance List.

The Social Security Administration has added three new Compassionate Allowances conditions:

CACH--Vanishing White Matter Disease-Infantile and Childhood Onset Forms

Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy, and

Kleefstra Syndrome

Compassionate Allowances are a way to quickly identify serious diseases and other medical conditions that meet Social Security's standards for disability benefits.

The Compassionate Allowances program identifies claims where the applicant’s disease or condition clearly meets Social Security’s statutory standard for disability. Many of these claims are allowed based on medical confirmation of the diagnosis alone, for example pancreatic cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and acute leukemia.

For more information about the program, including a list of all Compassionate Allowances conditions, please click here

or go to https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm.

 

Changes in the Affordable Care Act special enrollment periods effective on June 19, 2017. The reference chart link is helpful.

From the Centeron Budget & Policy Priorities:

The Marketplace open enrollment period is the regular time each year when people can newly enroll in a qualified health plan or change to a different plan through the Marketplace. But certain events that occur during the year can trigger a special enrollment period (SEP), when a person may be able to newly enroll in a Marketplace plan or change to a different plan.

This SEP Reference Chart is a tool for those who are helping people enroll in health coverage through a special enrollment period. It focuses on the circumstances that trigger a SEP in the Marketplace, who can trigger a SEP, and the effective date of coverage once a health plan is selected.

http://www.healthreformbeyondthebasics.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/SEP-Reference-Chart.pdf

World Elder Abuse Awreness Day - Randallstown Community Center

Date: 
Thu, 06/15/2017 (All day)
AttachmentSize
WEAAD Flyer 2017.pdf640.42 KB

Medicaid Cuts in House ACA Repeal Bill Would Limit Availability of Home and Community Based Services

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

 The House-passed bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which the Senate is now considering, would make home-and community-based services (HCBS) that states fund through Medicaid especially vulnerable to deep cuts. The House bill would radically restructure Medicaid’s federal financing and effectively end the ACA’s Medicaid expansion

 Facing steep cuts in their overall federal Medicaid funding, states would likely curtail HCBS  programs, which in 2013 allowed almost 3 million seniors and adults and children with disabilities to receive care at home instead of in a nursing home.

 The share of Medicaid expenditures for long-term services and supports that states allocate to HCBS has climbed from 18 percent in 1995 to 53 percent in 2014, with the number of people served with HCBS rising dramatically as well. States now spend more for HCBS than for nursing home care.

 The House bill —officially the American Health Care Act (AHCA) —would place a fixed cap on per-beneficiary federal Medicaid funding, cutting federal funding to the states by growing amounts over time. Capping and cutting federal funding would force many states to make excruciating decisions on whom they cover because unlike most services in Medicaid, which states must cover, most HCBS are optional  Medicaid benefits that states can cut when they face funding shortfalls.

The services that states provide in their HCBS programs vary, but they generally provide home health services plus help with chores, meals, transportation, and other services such as adult day care and respite care for family caregivers. Most states already limit HCBS due to funding constraints, and HCBS are a likely target if states must make substantial cuts due to federal funding shortfalls, because they spend more on optional HCBS than on any other optional benefit. The AHCA would therefore likely generate large increases in HCBS waiting lists.

 Read more on how the proposed fixed cap on per-beneficiary funding will result in reduced federal Medicaid payments to the states: http://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/5-18-17health.pdf

Affordable Care Act Still in Place Despite House Actions

From the Center on Budge tand Policy Priorities:

"It is important to emphasize that, at this time, the ACA is still law and its provisions are still in place. People’s coverage hasn’t changed, and open enrollment is on schedule for November."

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill now moves to the Senate, where the bill will likely change and then to a conference committee or a vote on the Senate bill in the House.

This process will take time, and we have no way of knowing now what provisions, if any, will be enacted and signed into law. We do know that many people who gained coverage due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are confused and worried about what is going to happen to their coverage. It is important to emphasize that, at this time, the ACA is still law and its provisions are still in place. People’s coverage hasn’t changed, and open enrollment is on schedule for November. 

As passed by the House, the AHCA would dramatically reverse the gains in coverage that we’ve made since the passage of the ACA. For an in-depth look at the key provisions in the AHCA, please see a summary of the AHCA from our friends at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

We will continue to follow the progress of this bill, and will keep you informed of any updates as it proceeds through the Senate. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website at www.cbpp.org includes numerous papers and resources on the AHCA and is updated on an almost daily basis with new material.

As noted, the ACA is still in place and it’s important to continue our work to help people get enrolled. To this end, we are planning an upcoming webinar that will review changes that were in the finalized Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule published last month. We will let you know as soon as we set the date for the webinar. 

The new HHS rule would make sweeping changes in special enrollment periods (SEPs) and the dates for the upcoming open enrollment period for 2018 coverage. States and State-Based Marketplaces that do not rely on Healthcare.gov have some additional flexibility related to several provisions of the rule, which we will explain in more detail during the webinar. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at beyondthebasics@cbpp.org

For additional resources and information on health reform, please see our Health Reform: Beyond the Basics website. For additional policy updates, please see our main organization website, www.cbpp.org

Trump Administration Gives Money to Florida Hospitals Instead of Encouraging Medicaid Expansion

The Trump Administration will increase the amount of money in the uncompensated care fund for hospitals rather than encourage Florida to to give health insurance to low income people through the Medcaid expansion. Instead of having a broad range of health care services covered by medical insurance (Medicaid) hospitals will have more of their uncompensated care covered when people show up in their emergency medical departments.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/30/us/politics/medicaid-expansion-trump-obama-florida.html?_r=0

NHeLP's Protect Medicaid Webinar Series

Webinar - Fri, Mar 17, 2017 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT National Health Law Program's Protect Medicaid Webinar Series: "Proposals to drastically cut federal Medicaid spending are gaining ground in the Republican-led Congress. In this third in a series of webinars on Medicaid financing and services, NHeLP/LA Staff Attorney Abbi Coursolle describes how efforts to impose Medicaid per capita caps or block grants will endanger Medicaid expansion to low income adults." For more information and to register: http://www.healthlaw.org/issues/medicaid/defending-medicaid
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