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Social Security Disability Judges Allegedly Used Racial and Sexual Terms on Claimants’ Applications

When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, you first have to decide which type of benefit is appropriate. In many case, if you have a work history and have become disabled, you will be applying for what are known as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits. This program requires that you have worked for a certain number of quarters prior to applying for benefits.  The exact number of benefits will be dependent upon your age.

957924_hand-300x200For example, a 21-year-old worker how has been employed for a few years prior to becoming disabled would not need to have worked as long as a 30-year-old worker in most cases.  The way the system is designed is to function much like private long-term disability insurance in which you pay into the system through your federal tax withholding. With a private disability insurance plan, either you or your employer would pay a premium to obtain coverage like you do with any other private insurance plan. 

Once you have decided to apply for SSDI benefits, you do so by submitting an application or claim for benefits.  For this reason, you are called a claimant.  Once you submit the claim, the agency will either approve or deny your claim.  As our Boston Social Security disability benefits attorneys have seen, the vast majority of all applications are denied.  At this point, you can file in writing for reconsideration.  At this stage, most applications are denied once again.

Eventually, after a somewhat long wait, you will be granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).  It is very important to have an attorney with you, because the decks are very much stacked against the claimant, and you want someone on your side who is fighting for your rights to an appropriate benefits award.

According to a recent news feature from the Journal Sentinel, it may be worse than people imagined. A whistle-blower has come forward and claimed that one ALJ has been using racist and sexual descriptions of claimants for years on their official paperwork. He allegedly referred to one claimant as “very black, African-looking woman” and that she was “actually gorilla-like.”

The United States Social Security Administration (SSA), the agency that handles disability claims and for which this ALJ was employed, said the forms have a space to write down the claimant’s physical appearance, but is normally things such as needed a wheelchair that are relevant, and not in any way what this ALJ had allegedly written on the forms.  He is also accused of creating a “toxic” work environment and using similar terms to describe his co-workers.

The employee who came forward and spoke to the press about these allegations said she is now facing retaliation for the agency for speaking about internal issues and about what was on claimant’s applications.  The agency said that employees have been directed not to speak to the press, but said it could not speak to any personnel matters.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Official described disability claimants in sexual, racial terms, July 2, 2016, Journal-Sentinel, By Haley Henschel

More Blog Entries:

Former NYPD Officer Pleads Guilty to $600,000 in Disability Benefits, June 28, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog