In recent months, there have been many various allegations and reports of alleged misconduct in Social Security Administration (SSA) offices around the nation. We have seen instances where administrative law judges (ALJs) have been accused of delaying hearings in an improper manner and also improperly denying benefits so as to save money.
We have also seen one case where an ALJ in Wisconsin, who is still employed, had his entire caseload taken away after allegations he was sexually harassing his subordinates and also female claimants who were seeking disability benefits. This was the judge accused of writing lewd comments about female applicants on their official agency paperwork. In addition to these issues, we have heard allegations where the whistleblowers that first uncovered this serious issue were terminated, while those alleged to have participated in the misconduct were allowed to keep their jobs. Members of Congress have stepped in and said this was unacceptable and are demanding that no retaliation be taken against these whistleblowers, as it is not only their right, but also their responsibility to report any misconduct. These ALJs all work for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in hearing centers across the country.
While these ALJs are stationed around the country, they are under the supervision of a chief judge, and, currently, that judge is Debra Brice. She is the Chief Administrative Law Judge for SSA, and has just announced her retirement, according to a recent article from the Wisconsin Watchdog. While she has already made this announcement, she will technically be retired later this year.
In response to her announcement that she will be retiring, Carolyn Colvin, who is the acting commissioner of SSA, has thanked her for services as chief ALJ for the past five years and wished her a happy retirement. While the timing of this announcement is raising eyebrows, as it is following what seems like a never ending slew of problems with the ALJ program coming to light, there has been no official word that her retirement has anything to do with this recent scandal.
One of the changes that has happened recently is that there had been a U.S. Senate committee conducting a formal inquiry into the situation and the alleged retaliation involving whistleblowers. The SSA was asked about whether there were any changes being made in the near future, but the agency said they would not comment on personnel matters.
As our Boston disability benefits attorneys can explain, even without issues like ones recently raised, it can be very difficult for claimants to get benefits, and the problem is exacerbated if the claimant does not have an experienced attorney representing them during a hearing or appeal. The reason for this is because the system is set up in a way as to put the claimant at a disadvantage if they are not aware of the complexities of the process and what traps to look out for. While these ALJs are supposed to be independent, they are employees of SSA with offices in SSA buildings, and they routinely find in favor of the agency, which involves a denial of SSDI or SSI benefits.
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.
Social Security chief judge retiring amid cloud of scandal, October 26, 2016, By M.D. Kittle, Wisconsin Watchdog
More Bog Entries:
Social Security Disability Judges Allegedly Used Racial and Sexual Terms on Claimants’ Applications, July 22, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog