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December 2014

Washington Watch Potpourri: Social Security, Medicare and the FDA – Still Waiting, Not Paying, and the Naming Game

Washington Watch


If You Think the Veteran’s Backlog Was Long…


It could cost you money if you don’t reassess your Medicare plan during the open enrollment season that began October 15 and goes through December 7.


Last spring the nation was outraged when the enormous backlog of claims at the Veterans Administration was revealed. The number of claims stuck in processing for more than 125 days at that time was 611,000 veterans who were not getting their claims processed. Seven months later, that number, the VA says now, has dropped to 344,000 claims that are still 125 days behind.


While there was bipartisan anger over the VA scandal, a recent Washington Post story reveals a dramatically worse backlog over disability claims at the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Social Security office of judges, who hear appeals for disability benefits, are 990,399 cases behind. And all of these people are waiting on a single office to get help.


Social Security is best known for sending benefits to seniors. But it also pays out disability benefits to people who can’t work because of physical or mental ailments. It also runs an enormous decision-making bureaucracy to figure out who is truly disabled and who is trying to game the system. The backlog is at the office that handles appeals of appeals. In most cases, the applicants have already been turned down twice by lower-level officials who didn’t think the person was disabled enough.


If people appeal to this office, they can plead their case in person before a special kind of Social Security judge, who is supposed to read the case history and ask questions.


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Back in My Day...

Ernie's World


Christmas has changed. When I was a kid growing up in New Hampshire, Black Friday had nothing to do with shopping. It just meant that they were serving something in the school cafeteria that they started cooking too early and finished cooking too late.


“What is that?”


“Ham, corn and potatoes.”


“Which one is the ham?””


We did not have Cyber Monday either. To us a World Wide Web would have contained one mother of a spider. And even if we had known what the Internet was we would not have been able to order things from it, because we could not access it on our transistor radios that got just one static-filled station and only if you were standing near a large window with tinfoil on your head.


We didn’t have a lot of huge electronic sales either. The most technologically advanced toy you could hope to find under the tree was one of those train sets that came with a six-foot oval track that never fit together right so the train wouldn’t start, wouldn’t start, wouldn’t start, then lunged forward and fell over.


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