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Proposed settlement to SSDI class action may allow rehearing of claims

When you apply for Social Security disability insurance benefits in Ohio, you may feel as if the Social Security Administration's (SSA) job is to make your life difficult. While the SSA has strict rules they must follow in approving applications, we generally assume they will be fair and reasonable when evaluating an application for SSDI benefits.

Sometimes that does not happen, as a New York Times article details. A class action lawsuit was filed because of the behavior of the administrative law judges (ALJ) in the Queens SSA office. It seems they had a rather high rate of rejected claims. Third highest in the nation, in fact. Queens borders on Brooklyn, and one would expect that they would serve a similar demographic. Yet, Queens' rejection rate was twice that of Brooklyn.

The behavior of the administrative law judges shocking. In one case, a federal district court judge described the ALJ as "dismissive, rude, and intolerant." According to the Urban Justice Center, a party in the lawsuit, other courts had found their analysis "deficient" and "incoherent," and that their conduct shows "serious negligence and could possibly even suggest bias."

ALJs are to approve or disapprove applications for SSDI, using objective criteria, and follow SSA rules and procedure during hearings. The ALJs at Queens appear to harbor a strong bias against low-income applicants. Ironic, considering that is a core demographic that SSDI is designed to help.

As part of the settlement, 4,000 claims from Queens will be eligible for a rehearing. One ALJ was reassigned other duties and the remained will be retrained.

As always, if you have questions or need help with a SSDI application in Ohio, contact us and we can help.

Source: The New York Times, "Rejected Disability Claims in Queens May Be Reheard," Mosi Secret, January 11, 2013

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