Maiffn Area

Renewed Push to Prevent Wage Theft

Posted on April 5th, 2016

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced the SWEAT bill (SWEAT standing for Securing Wages Earned Against Theft) which would make it easier for employees to hold their employers responsible.


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For the Record Replaced?

Posted on September 30th, 2015

Having trouble downloading audio files from ERE (SSA’s Electronic Records Express)? According to ODAR, SSA has updated its multimedia application. Some hearings were recorded using DRAP 7 and are playable using For the Record (FTR). All the hearing offices, however, are in the process of updating to DRAP 8. Hearings recorded with DRAP 8 use the OGG format. OGG files do not play on The Record Player.

Jennifer Karr of the Rochester office of the Empire Justice Center downloaded a program (OGG Vorbis- fish icon) from the OGG website and has been able to play the files on Window Media Player. She reports there are other several other “players” that will directly play OGG files, but FTR will not.

For the record, thanks to Jennifer for keeping us up to date.

FIT No Longer Fit?

Posted on April 16th, 2014

Rumors reported in the December 2103 Disability Law News are now confirmed: FIT – or “Findings Integrated Template” – is no more.  Representatives will no longer be able to submit proposed findings of fact and decisional language.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) has amended HALLEX temporary instruction (TI) I-5-1-17 to incorporate new instructions because the “FIT for Representatives” software is no longer available. http://ssa.gov/OP_Home/hallex/TS/tsi-5-117-3.html

FIT encompasses more than just proposed findings by representatives.  It is also a hearing decision template instituted to address quality issues in ALJ decisions, notably legal error or poorly articulated rationale.  In addition to FIT, SSA has been piloting eBB – Electronic Bench Book – as another policy-compliant web-based tool to aid in documenting, analyzing, and adjudicating a disability case in accordance with agency policy.  This is another “electronic tool to improve quality, accuracy, and consistency throughout the disability evaluation process.”  See the October 13, 2014 Testimony of Chief ALJ Debra Bice at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_100713.html.

Foreclosure Guidance Provided

Posted on July 15th, 2013

Millions of homeowners are still struggling to avoid foreclosure. Added to the stress of refinancing, or worse yet, moving out of one’s home after foreclosure, are questions about how the foreclosure or move might affect a client’s continued receipt of SSI benefits. Is the home still an excluded resource? Will it be counted as a resource if the client has to move? Will the client be charged with the dreaded ISM (in-kind support and maintenance) if he or she continues to live in the property but is no longer making payments on the mortgage?

SSA has provided guidance to it adjudicators on some of these issues. AM (Administrative Message) 09060 was issued on April 17, 2009, with a retention date of July 8, 2013. The AM acknowledges that there are no specific POMS relating to foreclosures. It references existing POMS on living arrangements and resources in addressing a series of hypothetical foreclosure situations.

Overall, SSA’s answers to the hypothetical scenarios are helpful. For example, a home might be treated as a resource if foreclosure proceedings have begun and the SSI beneficiary has moved out. If, however, the SSI beneficiary is “under water,” in that the current market value (CMV) of the home is less than the beneficiary owes the lender, eligibility for SSI would not be affected. Similarly, after a foreclosure is completed, it is assumed that the claimant validly transferred the property for fair market value (FMV); there is no ineligibility due to the transfer.

In terms of ISM, the AM provides that until a foreclosure is final, the claimant retains an interest in the property and an obligation to pay the mortgage, even if not currently doing so. SSA will not charge with the claimant with ISM due to nonpayment. What if the foreclosure is final, but the claimant is no longer obligated to pay the mortgage and has been given a date by which s/he must vacate the home? Even if the mortgage company does not require payment during this period, ISM will not be charged.

AM-09060 is available on the on-line resource center as DAP #555.