Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of Disability ALJ Decisions

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Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of ALJ Decisions

A recent article in the Washington Times discussed the increasing stress that the Social Security Disability system is operating under and how that stress has led to troubling problems affecting millions of Americans.

Investigators working for a Senate subcommittee examined hundreds of cases in which disability benefits were approved and found that those making the decisions frequently ignored warning signs such as incomplete or inconsistent information. Senators have said this review demonstrates the need for an overhaul of the existing system. One Senator said that the decisions from some administrative law judges (ALJs) were so bad that the final verdict seemed almost entirely arbitrary.

Though the first phase of this investigation involved looking over applications that were approved but should not have been, the Senate committee says it will next turn its attention to those cases that were denied and may have been denied wrongfully. Those in charge say they worry that they will discover the system is not helping many of the people it was designed to protect.

For its part, the Social Security Administration says it has work to do to fix problems in the system. However, they claim that outlier decisions occur far less often than they used to and the decisions of many ALJs are affirmed with much more regularity then ever before.

That may sound good, but problems still abound. The massive report showcased one ALJ from Oklahoma who has issued more than 1,000 decisions each year since 2006. Judge W. Howard O’Bryan Jr. peaked in 2008 with 1,846 decisions and regularly approved 90 percent or more of the claims. This compares to an average ALJ approval rate of about 60 percent. The investigation revealed that his decisions were notable only for their “poor quality” and how Judge O’Bryan often regurgitated the same boilerplate language in each case decision.

One case that apparently prompted the investigation, involved a man living as an adult “baby,” meaning he slept in an adult-sized crib and wore diapers. The man was collecting disability benefits despite having demonstrated carpentry skills and his ability to work with a reality TV show and a website for other adult “babies.”

The case of the adult “baby” highlighted another problem according to the Senate subcommittee and that is how out of date the list of jobs given to ALJs are. The list has not been updated since the 1970s and excludes many computer-related jobs that some people (possibly other adult “babies”) with disabilities might be able to perform.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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2 Responses to Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of Disability ALJ Decisions

  1. Anonymous says:

    My SSI hearing is coming up Jan-2013 and I am scared to my pants.

    I have not been able to work since 1998, unable to work or get help, left the country, only came back because of Obamacare. In the midst of all of this, in a foreign country unable to afford health care for my family, my daughter suffered permanent brain damage, and I have applied for SSI for her as well.

    Upon coming back I did get diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, sleep apnea and major depressive disorder recurrent.

    They give me tons of medicines and monthly infusions, but I’m still not able to function.

    I am 100% disabled under the Social Security guidelines, the condition is such that last week, the psychiatric nurse practitioner ordered a call to the Child Protective Services saying that if I’m too tired and sleeping excessively during the day, how can I take care of the children, they stated to get some kind of home health aid.

    We can’t even afford a baby sitter.

    There have been quite a bit of horror stories about Judges denying claims to much needed people, in our case, the entire family is suffering. There were those stories of that Swank judge in Virginia and some judges in Dallas.

    The attorney working on my case has told me that the outcome will depend on the judge assigned to my case, cause there is one judge who just doesn’t approve any cases and they have to be appealed, and some judges like to deny cases for one reason or the other.

    I am not asking for a free ride, but justice, and I’m scared of ending up with the judge who doesn’t look at the entire case and evaluate it according to what the law says.

    What can I say, the system stinks.

  2. Sidnee Farr says:

    I am a 55 yr. old who has worked since age 14. 21/2 yrs. ago I left my job as a teachers aid because of yawning spells that sometimes resulted in fainting. I have seen 10 different doctors and so far have been diagnosed with endocrine disorder,sjogren’s hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, 3 nodules, chronic fatigue, depression, polyglandular dysfunction,hyperparathyroidism, benign neoplasm of cerebral meninges,sleep apnea, hypersomnia syncope and collapse, severe memory and concentration loss,severe atypia (melenoma). The doctors still don’t know why I have these yawing spells that totally disable me and I sometimes faint with them. After being off work for a year my two main doctors told me to apply for ss disability. I actually thought I would someday be able to return to my job. I applied for ss disability and was denied because ” I can move my arms and legs”. I worked closely with the school nurse for 3 years and the children would flood the nurses office during the 3 lunch periods for meds. The nurse told me that most of these children didn’t even need their medication but mom and dad pushed for it so they could receive a $689 a month check and they had all their children on it. $689 was 1/2 of my monthly bring home wage per month. It is no wonder why these parents are wanting their children on ss disability. These children attend school everyday. Some of these children I had in the behavior disorder class that I was an aid in. These children had no interest in doing school work. There comment was “I don’t care if I graduate or not. I already receive a check and won’t have to work.” I don’t understand why they issue checks to school children. What 6 year old works? I believe if you give a disabled child a medical card I don’t see why they need a check when mom and dad could work while their child is in school. Checks should only be issued to children that are unable to attend school. When a child reaches adulthood and are still disabled then issue them disability checks. If the parents do need help in supporting their children that is what the welfare system is for. The ss program was intended for adults who could no longer work because of disability or retirement and the program was self funding. Now there are probably as many children on it as adults. There are so many people age 50 and older like myself who have worked all their lives ,become disabled and are turned down when they need help. We paid into this and these children and some of their parents haven’t. One man has had 8 heart attacks and spinal deterioration. He has fought for his disability since 2001 and was just now awarded benefits. Now they don’t want to pay his back benefits. It is about a three year wait to receive benefits and most of us have had to take out a second mortgage or have their homes in foreclosure. I believe the ss program needs to go back to the way it was intended, for adults. We don’t need two welfare programs (aid to families with dependant children) By changing this, it would lessing the ss case load, the backlog and waiting period and for each 2 children funded it would pay for a disabled adult who dosen’t have a mother or father to support them. Would these parents rather have ss for their children now or would they rather support their children now and receive ss when they retire or become disabled. At the rate ss is going now these parents will never be able to see ss when they get older. Please help and lets give ss back to those in which it was intended. I also know a person on disability can work and make up to 1000 dollars a month. I don’t understand this. A truely disabled person can not work at all. I have not seen an entire week that I was well enough to work. I was forced to resign my job position in sept.

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