Tag Archives: bad ALJ

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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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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Will my social security disability judge (ALJ) look at my Facebook account?

The Importance of Social Media in Social Security Disability Claims

Before the advent of the Internet, investigators had a much harder job. Collecting information, verifying statements and making sure everything added up is a lot more difficult without the help of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking services. The rise of these websites has encouraged people to post a plethora of personal information about themselves online for anyone to access. It’s important to understand that friends and family are not the only people taking notice. While this information is primarily useful in the personal injury context, it can be equally valuable when it comes to Social Security Disability claims.

Disability benefits exist to offer support due to those unable to work due to a debilitating condition. Would a quick look through your social media profiles indicate that you deserve such benefits? Better hope so, because it could spell disaster for your case if you’re claiming a terrible back injury yet have pictures plastered across Facebook of your recent tango lessons or bungee jumping adventure.

Investigators and judges use social networking websites and could conceivably check up on what you’ve been doing while you’re claiming injury. And it’s not just your profile that could cause problems, being tagged in a photograph by a friend who does not have privacy settings on a Facebook page can also spell trouble.  While this article should not be read as encouraging deception, disabled parties should be aware that anything posted online is not 100% private.

The following are some suggested steps for ensuring that your online footprint remains as small and as private as possible.

1. Immediately make your profile “private,” and set all privacy settings to the highest level.

2. Remember to not discuss your accident, injuries or treatment, including any prescribed medication, on ANY social networking sites.


3. Avoid discussing recent activities you’ve engaged in, physical exertion, abilities and limitations, or any other information that may bear on what you can and cannot do because of your condition.


4. Be sure you know everyone who is your “friend.” Do not accept friend requests from people you do not personally know.


5. Review your friend list and block anyone you are not 100% sure you trust. Investigators could pose as a friend or get information from others who are to gain access to potentially incriminating information that could negatively affect your claim.

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

 

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What questions will the ALJ ask in my disability SSI / SSDI hearing?

What kind of questions will I be asked at my disability hearing?

ALJ questionsMany people are interested in knowing details about their disability hearing. For instance, how many and what kind of questions can you expect? Most hearings will be over in under an hour and some even less than that. As a result, you should not have to answer questions for an extended period of time. No matter how short, this hearing is many people’s first experience in such a formal setting and can be quite nerve-wracking. The following is some background information on the process and tips for how to effectively handle the hearing. Whether your hearing is in Dayton, Ohio, Dallas, Texas or Gary, Indiana, the questions asked by the judge will fall into four broad categories: 1) background information; 2) work history; 3) medical conditions and symptoms; and 4) activities of daily living.

As the name implies, background questions provide the judge general information about you. These questions can include your educational history, marital status, income, military service or even past criminal charges. Drug and alcohol use could also conceivably come up, though certainly not always.

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) might ask for additional information about your job including your responsibilities, the requirements of the job and how your condition has affected your job performance. This last item is the most important. Giving the judge specific examples of problems your condition has caused meeting performance standards, as well as attendance issues that result from your disability can help convince the judge that you are indeed prevented from working.

Although your medical records are on file the judge may want to ask some clarifying questions to make sure he has all the necessary information to make a proper decision. The judge will almost definitely ask you how your medical condition affects you. What type of pain do they cause you? How do you try to relieve the pain? Are your medications effective? How much can you lift and carry? How long can you stand, sit, and walk? This is your chance to explain how your condition affects your life and your work so think through these questions prior to going to the hearing.

When answering medical questions it is important to give clear answers that paint a picture of your level of impairment. If you suffer from back problems and the judge asks you for a description, use words like “burning,” “tingling,” “aching,” “shooting,” or “dull.” Also clearly describe the location of any pain. This will help the judge know decided whether the symptoms are consistent with the recognized symptoms of your condition.

You may also be asked about your activities of daily living. These include normal things like bathing and dressing yourself, cooking, cleaning, yard work, and grocery shopping. If you have children the judge will likely asking for details about how the children are cared for. This provides yet another good opportunity to showcase how your disability impacts your life. It is crucial to explain that even if you are able to help out around the house, your medical condition creates limitations.

With all the above-mentioned categories it’s important to be honest and avoid the temptation to exaggerate. Some may feel that it will help to make their symptoms sound worse than they actually are. This kind of dishonestly usually has the opposite effect. The judges are very experienced and hear many similar cases every year. They are experts at recognizing exaggerations and you do not want to lose credibility in their eyes.

Having an experienced disability attorney help prepare you for your hearing is a wise decision. If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call Nicholson Disability 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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