As you may have already heard, a Social Security Administration (SSA) administrative law judge (ALJ) was accused to have been of sexually harassing his co-workers at the agency and writing derogatory things about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits claimants when denying their applications.
Following these accusations that came as result of a whistleblower inside the SSA (the federal agency responsible for administering the Social Security disability programs and the Social Security Old Age and Retirement program), there was a widespread opinion that he should resign as an ALJ before being subject to discipline.
However, according to a recent news feature from the Wisconsin Watchdog, this ALJ said he has no intention of stepping down. That means the agency will have to remove him if it’s decided he should longer be reviewing cases.
To understand the role of an ALJ at the SSA (many other agencies have ALJs as well), it is important to look at the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits.
If you applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in Boston, for example, you would first file a written application. You could submit any medical documentation along with this application to support you claim of disability. In all likelihood, your application will be denied without regard to whether you are actually disabled. The reason for this is because the vast majority of all applications are initially denied. While SSA would never admit this, there is basically an unwritten policy to save the agency money by paying out less in claims. Some people will even give up at this point. Those that decide to forge ahead with their claim for Boston disability benefits will file for reconsideration. This is also done in writing, and this attempt will also likely result in another denial. The reason for this is because this appeal is done on a peer review basis, and the co-worker of the person who first rejected your application is not likely to approve it now.
Eventually, you will be a given a hearing before an ALJ, who will hear evidence and make a finding as to whether or not you were disabled. At this stage in the process, it is best to have an experienced disability benefits lawyer at your side who will fight for your rights to a full and appropriate award of benefits.
At this hearing, the ALJ will hear from a vocational expert (VE). The VE works for the SSA and is an expert on how to apply the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) to the claimant’s list of ailments. The DOT was writing primarily in the 1970s and has not been updated much, as it still contains a list of archaic jobs in the local or national economy. The ALJ will likely ask hypothetical questions to the VE about whether a claimant could work with such ailments. ALJ will also hear from a variety of medical experts and make a finding.
It is very hard for unrepresented claimants to get approved, and this is with a judge who is not making discriminatory remarks about claimants in official paperwork.
Whether any cases will be affected by the whistleblower revelations remains to be seen.
If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Social Security judge accused of misconduct refuses to step aside, sources say, August 11, 2016, By M.D. Kittle, Wisconsin Watchdog
More Blog Entries:
Who is Getting the Most from Social Security Disability? July 2, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog