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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.

Posted in Social Security SSD/SSI | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Can the Child choose which Parent they want to live with in Ohio?

It is one of the most common myths that people maintain when it comes to child custody: Once a child reaches a certain age, that child can choose which parent to live with, right? Well, that is actually incorrect. However, this myth is based in history and actually grounded is truth. Under former Ohio law, once a child attained the age of 12 years old,child_support_ohio_termination that child had the power to choose which parent was to be deemed the residential parent and legal custodian of that child. However, under current Ohio law, minor children no longer have the ability to choose which parent they want to live with on a permanent basis. In other words, when the Court issues its final divorce decree which, among other things, allocates parental rights and responsibilities, it is not the child that determines which parent is to be the residential parent, even if that child is a teenager. Ohio law treats a 14 year old in the same manner as a 4 year old when it comes to determining which parent with be designated as the residential parent. And, like almost all issues involving minor children, the determination is guided by what is in the “best interest of the child”.

So, divorcing parents, remember that your child will not be choosing for or against you when it comes to custody issues. Rather, the Court will decide and you need to focus your energy on convincing the Court that it would be in the best interest of the child to live with you … do not work on convincing the child that he or she should choose you. Which, in truth, is not fair to the child anyway.

Posted in Family Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

Diversion and ILC in Ohio Felony Cases

ohio_diversion_programMost people think that when someone is indicted in Ohio for a felony that there are only two possible resolutions: (1) The person will plead or be found guilty, or (2) the person will be acquitted of the charges. That is not entirely true. Ohio has a couple of alternatives that an attorney could pursue on behalf of a felony criminal defendant. First, the attorney could file a motion for Intervention in Lieu of Conviction (“ILC”). In short, ILC basically allows a person who committed a crime due to their addiction to drugs or alcohol to receive treatment for their substance abuse problems instead of a conviction and prison time. But, ILC is not available for all felony defendants and a given defendant must first be found to qualify for ILC. Ask your attorney whether you qualify (ILC is not available for certain crimes and certain offenders). If the Court accepts the ILC it will then prescribe a particular treatment program for the defendant and suspend the pending criminal action. If the defendant does what the Court demands as far as the treatment goes, the Court will dismiss the charges and the defendant can avoid a felony conviction altogether.

The second possibility is something called “Diversion.” Diversion is similar to ILC in that if the defendant is accepted for diversion and completes the program, then ultimately he or she avoids being convicted of a felony. The defendant is “diverted” out of the criminal court system and given a chance to accomplish certain goals set by the program. If the defendant successfully completes the diversion program, then the Court will dismiss the charges. However, like ILC, only certain charges and certain types of criminal defendants are eligible for a diversion program.

Posted in Criminal Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to terminate my Social Security Representative Payee?

If you feel as though you no longer need a Representative Payee SSA.gov suggests the following:

budget social securityIn order to become your own payee, you must show SSA that you are now mentally and physically able to handle your money yourself. You could provide:

  1. A doctor’s statement that there has been a change in your condition and that the doctor believes you are able to care for yourself; or
  2. An official copy of a court order saying that the court believes that you can take care of yourself; or
  3. Other evidence that shows your ability to take care of yourself.

Note: Be advised that if SSA believes your condition has improved to the point that you no longer need a payee, we may reevaluate your eligibility for benefits.

However, in my experience if your Representative Payee is an approved organization then your chances to be become your own payee are slim to none.  The main reason being, that SSA has likely already done extensive screening due to the fact that they will only allow an organization to be a Payee Representative as a last resort.  Most of these Organizational Payee Representatives charge a fee ranging anywhere from 25 dollars a month at some organizations here in Dayton up to 75 dollars a month in some larger cities such as Cleveland and Columbus.

Therefore, the best option in many cases for a person unhappy with their current Organizational Payee Representative is to simply request that the Representative be changed from to an Organization with lower fees or a family or church member that will agree to apply as a representive.  All of this can be handled through your local Social Security Administration Office without the aid of an attorney.

Posted in Social Security SSD/SSI | 6 Comments