October 21, 2021

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Justice Department Resolves Civil Rights Review of South Dakota Unified Judicial System

14 min read
<div>The Justice Department announced it resolved a civil rights review of the South Dakota Unified Judicial System (UJS) that will improve access to state courts for people with limited English proficiency (LEP).</div>
The Justice Department announced it resolved a civil rights review of the South Dakota Unified Judicial System (UJS) that will improve access to state courts for people with limited English proficiency (LEP).

More from: October 5, 2021

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    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested a Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) contract award for retractor holder sets, contending that: (1) the awardee's item failed to conform to the solicitation requirements; (2) DPSC should have conducted a preaward survey of the awardee; and (3) the award violated patents held by the protester. GAO held that the protest was untimely, since the protester did not diligently pursue its basis for protest or request a post-award debriefing where it could have obtained the same or similar information pursuant to its Freedom of Information Act request. Accordingly, the protest was dismissed.
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    In U.S GAO News
    Policies on the use of borrowed military personnel vary among military services. Borrowed military personnel refers to military personnel used for duties outside their assigned positions, such as security protection. DOD policy acknowledges that there may be instances in which military personnel can be used to appropriately satisfy a near-term demand but that DOD must be vigilant in ensuring that military personnel are not inappropriately utilized, particularly in a manner that may degrade readiness. Additionally, the Army and the Marine Corps have their own policies that describes how military personnel may be used on a temporary basis. DOD and the Army, Navy, and Air Force do not centrally track their use of borrowed military personnel, nor do they assess any impacts of that use on the readiness of units and personnel to accomplish their assigned missions. According to DOD and Army officials, the relatively limited use of borrowed military manpower, their limited impacts on readiness, and the existence of other readiness reporting mechanisms serve to obviate the need to collect and analyze this information centrally—especially given the resources that would be required to establish and maintain such a reporting process. The House Armed Services Committee has questioned whether DOD continues to divert servicemembers from their unit assignments to perform nonmilitary functions that could be performed by civilian employees. House Report 116-120, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to assess the levels and impacts of borrowed military personnel. This report examines DOD's and the military services' policies on the use of borrowed military personnel, the tracking and reporting of their use of borrowed military personnel, and any impacts of that use on readiness. For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202)512-5431 or RussellC@gao.gov.
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  • Social Security Disability: Information on Wait Times, Bankruptcies, and Deaths among Applicants Who Appealed Benefit Denials
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO found that most applicants for disability benefits who appealed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) initial disability determination from fiscal years 2008 through 2019 waited more than 1 year for a final decision on their claim. Median wait times reached 839 days for claims filed in fiscal year 2015, following an increase of applications during the Great Recession. Wait times have decreased since then as SSA made substantial progress in reducing the wait for a hearing before an administrative law judge prior to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Individuals who filed appeals of disability benefits decisions were older and had less education than the overall population of working-age adults. Among these disability applicants, wait times for a final decision did not significantly vary by age, sex, or education levels. GAO's analysis of available data from SSA and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) found that from fiscal years 2014 through 2019, about 48,000 individuals filed for bankruptcy while awaiting a final decision on their disability appeals. This represents about 1.3 percent of the approximately 3.6 million disability applicants who filed appeals during those years. The applicants who filed for bankruptcy while awaiting a disability appeals decision were disproportionately female, older, and had more than a high school education as compared to the total population of disability applicants who filed appeals. Bankruptcies among individuals who were awaiting decisions about disability appeals may have been unrelated to the applicant's claimed disability. GAO's analysis of SSA disability administrative data and death data found that of the approximately 9 million disability applicants who filed an appeal from fiscal year 2008 through 2019, 109,725 died prior to receiving a final decision on their appeal. This represents about 1.2 percent of the total number of disability applicants who filed an appeal during those years. The annual death rate of applicants awaiting a final disability decision has increased in recent years. From fiscal years 2011 through 2018, the annual death rate for applicants pursuing appeals increased from 0.52 percent to 0.72 percent. Applicants who filed their initial disability claim during years of peak wait times and appealed their initial decision died at a higher rate while awaiting a final decision than applicants who filed their initial claim in years with shorter wait times. Disability applicants awaiting a final decision about their appeal who were male died at higher rates than applicants who were female and those who were older died at higher rates than those who were younger. Death rates were largely similar across reported education levels. Deaths among individuals who were awaiting decisions about disability appeals may have been unrelated to the applicant's claimed disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages two large disability benefit programs–Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). As of December 2019, these programs provided benefits to approximately 12.3 million adults living with disabilities and their eligible dependents. A disability applicant who is dissatisfied with SSA's initial disability determination can appeal the decision to multiple escalating levels of review. From fiscal years 2008 through 2019, SSA received approximately 9 million appeals of initial DI or SSI decisions. GAO has previously reported that applicants who appeal a benefits denial can potentially wait years to receive a final decision, during which time an applicant's health or financial situation could deteriorate. Given the heightened risk of worsening medical and financial conditions for disability applicants, GAO was asked to examine the incidence of such events while applicants await a final decision on their disability claim. This report examines the status of disability applicants while they awaited a final benefits decision including 1) their total wait times across all levels of disability appeals within SSA, 2) their incidence of bankruptcy, and 3) their incidence of death. For wait times, bankruptcies, and deaths, GAO also examined variations across certain demographic characteristics of applicants. GAO obtained administrative data from SSA for all adult disability applicants from fiscal years 2008 through 2019 who filed an appeal to their initial disability determination. 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    In U.S GAO News
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    In U.S GAO News
    Military operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism, particularly those in Iraq and Afghanistan, have challenged the Department of Defense's (DOD) ability to provide needed ground forces. Section 354 of the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act directed GAO to report on a number of military readiness issues. In this report, GAO addresses (1) the extent to which DOD's use of nonstandard forces to meet ground force requirements has impacted the force and (2) the extent to which DOD has faced challenges in managing the training and use of these forces, and taken steps to address any challenges. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed DOD policies, guidance, and data and interviewed department, joint, combatant command, and service officials as well as trainers and over 300 deploying, deployed, and redeploying servicemembers.The use of nonstandard forces--individuals in certain temporary positions, and units with missions that require the unit personnel to learn new skills or operate in different environments--has helped DOD fulfill U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) requirements that the Army otherwise would not have been able to fill, but these efforts have also caused challenges across the force. For certain Navy and Air Force occupational specialties, these nonstandard force deployments have challenged the services' abilities to (1) balance the amount of time their forces are deployed with the amount of time they spend at home, and (2) meet other standard mission requirements. Some of the communities that have been most affected by nonstandard force deployments include the engineering, security force, and explosive ordnance disposal communities. In addition, the services have been challenged by emerging requirements for capabilities which do not exist in any of the services' standard forces, such as the transition teams that train local forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. These requirements are particularly taxing because the teams are composed primarily of officers and senior noncommissioned officers. Because standard forces do not exist to meet these leadership requirements, the services are forced to take leaders from other commands, which must then perform their missions without a full complement of leaders. The steps that DOD has taken to increase coordination between the services and CENTCOM have helped DOD manage challenges related to nonstandard forces, but additional steps are needed to ensure consistency in training and using these forces. Nonstandard forces face more complex relationships than standard forces, making coordination of their training and use more challenging. Specifically, their training requirements are established by both the services and theater commanders and training may be conducted by trainers from another service. In addition, while deployed, these forces often report to commanders from two different services. Furthermore, authorities concerning the training and use of forces do not specifically address the training and use of nonstandard forces. DOD has taken significant steps to coordinate the training of its nonstandard forces through regular conferences at which CENTCOM and service officials develop detailed training plans for some nonstandard forces. However, the training of individual augmentees has not been fully coordinated. As a result, individuals who perform the same types of tasks may receive different levels of training. Also, the services waive training requirements without consistently coordinating with CENTCOM, so CENTCOM lacks full visibility over the extent to which all of its forces have met requirements. To increase support and oversight of the use of nonstandard forces in theater, the services have taken steps to improve coordination, which have reduced instances where nonstandard forces' missions, tasks, or organization are modified. However, the services do not have full visibility over their nonstandard forces and view the authority of ground force commanders differently, which has sometimes led to differences in their use of nonstandard forces.
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