Thousands get new SSDI hearings due to judges’ bias

There are a number of reasons that the vast majority of Social Security disability claims out of Wisconsin are denied the first time around. One reason is that because the application process is very complicated applicants often fail to provide sufficient documentation of their disabilities. Another reason is that the Social Security Administration has an immense backlog of applications, so individual judges fail to give each application the attention it deserves.

While the administrative law judges who review claims for Social Security benefits have a reputation for being error-prone, a recent class-action lawsuit says that some judges are knowingly wrongly denying SSDI benefits. According to a federal lawsuit, five specific administrative law judges have been biased against poor SSDI applicants in Queens, New York.

The lawsuit claims that the judges trivialized the impairments of disability applicants during hearings and also questioned some applicants so harshly that it made them cry.

A settlement has now been reached in the lawsuit that requires the SSA to remove the judges from certain cases. The affected applicants will now appear before new judges to request SSDI benefits. It has been estimated that as many as 4,000 SSDI cases will be reviewed as a result.

In addition to this, as part of the settlement, the SSA is going to implement policies against bias as well as create a department to monitor disability claims.

In Queens, where many inhabitants are immigrants, the SSDI denial rating is apparently one of the highest in the country, and twice as high as nearby Brooklyn, according to the New York Times. One judge in particular was denying about 90 percent of applications.

This case should remind Wisconsin residents and those in other states of how important it is to have an advocate when seeking SSDI benefits. Unfortunately, it is not easy for deserving people to obtain SSDI benefits but it is possible when applicants understand the process and have someone looking out for their interests.

Source: New York Times, “Rejected Disability Claims in Queens May Be Reheard,” Mosi Secret, Jan. 11, 2013

  • To learn more about applying for Social Security disability benefits and appealing denials, please visit our Milwaukee law firm’s Social Security Disability page.

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