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Whenever a new party takes over the White House, it is not uncommon for there to be a hiring freeze with respect to federal employees.  Traditionally, this is a relatively short-term measure designed to give the new administration time to decide what its priorities will be and how those priorities will shape the composition of the various federal agencies.

cashHowever, regardless of what your feelings are about President Donald J. Trump, this recent hiring does not appear to be business as usual.  The reason for this is because Mr. Trump has promised to drastically reduce the size of government and slash the federal work force.  It seems the recent hiring freeze rolled out in an executive order may be in place for quite some time to come. Continue reading →

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In a recent case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, claimant applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, and his application was denied by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).

wheelchair7-300x225Claimant first applied for disability benefits in 2008.  In 2008, he was 35-years-old.  His application was denied.  This is not shocking, since SSA will typically reject the vast majority of all applications initially.  This is done with little regard to whether the claimant is actually able to work.  Congress is actually investigating whether this is intentional due to a series of complaints by whistleblowers. Continue reading →

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In a recent SSDI case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the claimant was denied an award of benefits after a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).  An ALJ is an employee of the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) that is responsible for hearing appeals when the review staff at the agency has already denied a claimant’s application at least two times in writing.

pencil tipAs long as the requests for review are made in a timely manner, the ALJ will hear the appeal, though as an employee of the SSA, the ALJ often sides with the SSA, finding that the claimant is not disabled.  This is especially true in cases where the claimant is not represented by an experienced disability benefits attorney. Continue reading →

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There is clearly a huge debate going on in this country about the Second Amendment and it the rights it actually guarantees.  There are those who believe the Second Amendment was drafted to give citizens virtually unlimited rights with respect to the ownership and carrying of firearms.  There as many who believe that a private citizen should be able to purchase a fully automatic machine gun if they so desire and that any attempt to stop them is an infringement on constitutionally protected liberties.

gunOn the other hand, there are those who believe that only the police and the military need to have pistols and assault weapons, as is the case in many European nations with much stricter gun control laws than in the U.S.  There are also many who fall somewhere in the middle of these two extreme positions.  For example, a moderate on gun control might allow people to purchase firearms, but they must compete a safety course, a background check, and are limited in what type of weapons they can purchase. Continue reading →

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A recent editorial from The Des Moines Register discussed what has been called the nightmare shared by millions of disabled Americans. What they all have in common is they are waiting to learn whether they will finally be approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. They are waiting for the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to make a decision, hold a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), or both.

stopwatchThe author compares this to a place where you are typically given a number a number and told to wait your turn until that number is called.  We could be talking about the RMV, or even your local deli counter at the Stop and Shop.  In this example, if they agency really gave out numbers, you would be handed a number with a value higher than 1.4 million, and they would be calling number six.  While this may seem like an absurd example, if you are waiting for your ALJ hearing, there are likely more than 1.4 million people ahead of you, system wide. Continue reading →

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In Brown v. Colvin, a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the claimant had applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits due to severe back problems and obesity.  When she first applied for disability benefits, her application was denied.  She then filed for reconsideration.

workFiling for reconsideration is typically done in writing or via the Internet, and a co-worker of the Social Security Administration (SSA) employee who first denied your application will review your application. For this reason, SSA considers this a peer review process.  Almost all applications that were initially denied will be denied once again at the peer review stage. Continue reading →

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We have been hearing a lot about problems in the Social Security Administration (SSA) over the past year.  Some of the issues involve allegations the multiple administrative law judges (ALJs) were engaging in inappropriate behavior with respect to staff and disability claimants.

gavelThese cases were brought to light by various employees who informed the SSA Office of Inspector General (OIG) about one ALJ that was allegedly sexually harassing disability claimants and his coworkers and another judge that was improperly denying claims.  We also heard that the agency was purposely mishandling claims to save money by paying out less in benefits. Continue reading →

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According to a recent news article from Fed Week, the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) has some very strict standards for those who are applying for disability benefits. This includes those who are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and those who are applying for what is known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

denied-300x271The fact that SSA has very strict standards for applicants who submit a claim for benefits is likely not a surprise to anyone who has submitted a claim and had that claim rejected (which is most applicants), this article takes a closer look at what these standards are and what you should do to increase your chances of obtaining a successful disability benefits award. Continue reading →

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Each year, millions of Americans struggle to pay their student loan bills.  This is true for younger people who are just out of college, and it is true for people who have been out of school for 20 years.  It is also true for parents of students who took out federal student loans and may still be struggling to pay them off many years later.

cashThis is reason we see Americans who have reached the age of retirement and are still saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of federal student loan debt.  While it is difficult for many people to pay off this debt and make their required payments each month, it is especially challenging for those who are disabled, according to a recent news article from the Money and Career Cheatsheet. Continue reading →

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According to a recent news article from the Wisconsin Watchdog, a publication that has been following the many problems at the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) and their disability benefit program, the agency is requiring personnel to take whistleblower training after it has already allegedly fired one whistleblower. The alleged firing of a whistleblower in retaliation for reporting problems with delays, along with judges making derogatory comments to employees and disabled claimants, has gotten some members of Congress concerned, and they have commenced oversight hearings.

whistleIn this recent article, the author discusses how this mandatory training is designed to tell employees about their rights to report misconduct and thus become a whistleblower, and the whistleblower that started all of this is not there because she was fired three months before the first training.  It has been alleged that she was fired illegally in retaliation for reporting the various different instances of misconduct. Continue reading →