Tag Archives: arthritis

Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of Disability ALJ Decisions

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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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Social Security Disability

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes damage to joints, organs, and bodily systems due to inflammation of joint tissues. While inflammation is usually a response by a person’s immune system to disease or infection, the immune system of someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis attacks the person’s healthy joints, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. As the disease progresses, it causes difficulty in engaging in even ordinary activities, this includes things as simple as walking, standing, getting dressed and personal grooming.

Rheumatoid arthritis is not the same as osteoarthritis or other forms of arthritis. Instead, it is an autoimmune disease, which causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly turn on otherwise healthy tissue. Physicians diagnose rheumatoid arthritis by a physical examination, followed by blood tests to detect abnormalities and then by using body scans or bone scans to examine the effect of the disease on the person’s joints.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include pain and swelling of the joints that cause them to be tender to the touch, red and puffy hands, fatigue, fever, weight loss, and morning stiffness. Generally the smaller joints are affected first, followed by the larger joints and even the neck. Sadly, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis and doctors work to slow down the progress of the inflammation.

To be approved for Social Security Disability benefits due to rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory arthritis, you must may meet the requirements found in Listing 14.09 of the Blue Book.

These requirements say that claimants must have a three-month history of constant joint pain, swelling and tenderness that involves multiple major joints. These joints are defined as the hip, knee, shoulder, ankle, elbow, or hand and wrist. In addition, joint inflammation, swelling, and tenderness must be found upon physical examination by a doctor, despite attempts at treatment. You must also have considerable restriction of joint function. Finally, all these symptoms must be expected to last for at least twelve months.

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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How much does SSI pay per month?

How much will your Supplemental Security Income (SSI)  checks pay each month? Well, it varies as some states award additional income to the base amounts listed below. That being said, here are the amounts for 2012. Keep in mind that these amounts change each year in conjunction with the cost of living adjustment (COLA).

Social Security Administration SSI payout amounts for 2012:


Calculation details
Recipient Unrounded annual amounts for— Monthly amounts for 2012
2011 2012 a
Eligible individual $8,095.32 $8,386.75 $698
Eligible couple 12,141.61 12,578.71 1,048
Essential person 4,056.93 4,202.98 350
The unrounded amounts for 2012 equal the unrounded amounts for 2011 increased by 3.6 percent.


Payment reduction
Remember, these payouts are lowered depending on your countable income each year. If you are thinking of applying for disability benefits click for a free consultation or call 1-800-596-1533.

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