Social Security Benefits

Honorably Discharged Navy Veteran Defrauded VA and SSA of $1.5 Million

‘Wheelchair-Bound’ Man Caught in Disability Fraud After Seen Jet Skiing, Riding Motorcycle. He conned the VA and the SSA out of millions of dollars.

/ AP

/ AP

A South Carolina man was convicted of “one of the largest” disability fraud cases in Veterans Affairs history after he was caught riding a motorcycle and going jet skiing while pretending to be wheelchair-bound.

Dennis Paulsen faces up to 20 years in prison for conning the VA and Social Security Administration (SSA) out of millions of dollars, taking nearly $10,000 a month for more than a decade.

Mr. Paulsen obtained the benefits by pretending he was unable to use his feet or hands due to a multiple sclerosis diagnosis (MS). Meanwhile, he regularly hit the gym, joined a club baseball team, played golf, and drove around in his Escalade.

“In conducting one of the largest fraudulent single disability compensation claims in VA history, Paulsen substantially feigned and exaggerated the impairment resulting from his multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis,” the Social Security Administration’s(SSA) Inspector General(IG) said. “After being diagnosed and discharged from the Navy in the early 1990s, Paulsen began receiving a monthly VA benefit as a result of his diagnosis. Unsatisfied with the amount he was receiving, Paulsen began a pattern of malingering by claiming his MS rendered him unable to use his hands or feet in any respect.”

“Still unhappy with the money he was awarded, Paulsen ramped up his claims, lying to his doctors, presenting himself as house- and wheelchair-bound, and making false claims that he required daily professional medical care to live until his benefits were increased to the maximum disability payments available to a Veteran,” the inspector general said.

In all, Paulsen was able to steal $1.5 million from the government, collecting $9,400 each month.

The case is reminiscent of the case of a “blind” Wisconsin man whose Social Security disability fraud scheme ended when federal agents caught him driving a speedboat. Paulsen was caught driving a motorcycle.

“Despite his feigned claims of impairments and presenting himself in a wheelchair to his doctors, Paulsen lived in a non-handicap-accessible residence and was able to ride his motorcycle and jet skis plus play baseball and golf on a regular basis,” the inspector general said. “In 1999, Paulsen met his ex-wife at the gym where he exercised and worked training others.”

Paulsen was also “active in several gyms, joined a baseball league from 2006 until 2014,” and seen “playing pool, swimming in his backyard pool, playing on the beach, and driving his Escalade and manual shift Mini Cooper.” He even participated in a Marine Mud Run.

Investigators used surveillance footage and family photographs to reveal Paulsen’s very active lifestyle, contradicting his claim of suffering from a severe disability.

Paulsen continues to exaggerate his condition, appearing at his trial in federal court, which concluded last week, in a wheelchair.

Paulsen testified, in a wheelchair, for four hours and called three doctors as expert witnesses in an attempt to support his claim that he was and had been totally disabled,” the inspector general said. “The guilty verdict reflects that the jury did not find this testimony credible.”

 

(BY:
January 27, 2016)

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Mentally Impaired Social Security Claimants Commit Suicide After Being Told That Benefits Will End

Lawsuit blames two suicides on notice of imminent cut in disability benefits.

 A move by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to end disability checks for thousands of people in Kentucky played a substantial role in two people killing themselves, a federal lawsuit alleges.

 

The two dead claimants committed suicide by gunshot. They blew out their brains. Melissa Jude and Leroy Burchett, were despondent after getting notice that they would lose benefits, the lawsuit alleges.

Burchett shot himself in the chin on June 1. Jude shot herself in the head the next day, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit further alleges that two Social Security recipients were distraught over the notice from SSA that they would lose their livelihood and might have to repay pass benefits received.

Social Security has notified thousands of benefit recipients of the impending loss of checks.

This case is linked to allegations of fraud in disability cases of Kentucky lawyer Eric Conn.

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Thousands Afraid To Appear At Social Security Hearings

Attorneys worry 1,000 or more Social Security beneficiaries will lose checks when re-evaluated.

Attorneys representing hundreds of people fighting to keep their Social Security federal disability benefits worry those benefits may disappear for most of them if they do not have a lawyer.

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) orders thousands of  people to attend Re-Evaluation hearings to determine whether they should continue receiving disability checks.

Many of those people are former clients of  Attorney Eric C. Conn.

In 2011 a story appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerning the high rate in which SSA Judges approved Social Security disability cases.

Allegations of fraud came under investigation by a U.S. Senate committee Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was the Chairman of The Senate Committee. The Committee’s Report found widespread fraud and a veritable “disability claim factory” allegedly  run by Attorney Eric C. Conn out of his small office in Stanville, Kentucky, a region of the country where 10 to 15 percent of the population  receives disability payments.

The report documents how Attorney Conn allegedly worked together with Social Security Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty (ALJ)  and a team of favored doctors with checkered pasts, including suspended licenses in other states, who rubber stamped approval of disability claims. In most cases, the claims had been prepared in advance with nearly identical language by staffers in Conn’s law office.

The report found that over the past six years, Attorney Conn allegedly paid five doctors almost $2 million to provide favorable disability opinions for his claimants.

In 2010, the last year for which records are available, Judge Daugherty approved 1375 disability cases prepared by Attorney Conn’s office and denied only 4 of them – an approval  rate that other administrative law judges have described as nearly  impossible.

Judge Daugherty, 78 years old, processed more cases than all but three judges in the U.S. He had a wry view of his less-generous peers. “Some of these judges act like it’s their own damn money we’re giving away,” ALJ Daugherty told a fellow Huntington SSA ALJ, Algernon Tinsley, who worked in the same office, Mr. Tinsley recalled.

The report found, “Judge Daugherty telephoned the Conn law firm each month and identified a list of Mr. Conn’s disability claimants to whom the judge planned to award benefits. Judge Daugherty also indicated, for each listed claimant, whether he needed a “physical” or “mental” opinion from a medical professional indicating the claimant was disabled.”

The report says that when Senate staffers and the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General began an investigation based on tips from whistle blowers in the Social Security Hearing Office, Attorney Conn and Judge Daugherty began communicating with disposable, pre-paid cell phones. It also alleges they contracted with a local shredding company to destroy 13 tons of documents.

Attorney Conn also allegedly destroyed all the computer hard drives in his office, a la Hillary Clinton at the State Department.

In 2011, the SSA placed Daugherty on administrative leave. He retired shortly after that.

In October 2013 a West Virginia Police Report said Judge Daugherty was found unconscious in his car in a Barboursville, WVa. church parking lot.

The report said the police found a garden hose running from the car’s exhaust into the passenger side of the vehicle.

Judge Daugherty was taken to a hospital and later released.

Conn has not been charged with a crime. He is suspected by congressional investigators of using fraudulent information to win the benefits. Attorney Conn’s legal fate remains in the hands of the Obama Justice Department.

A prevailing concern is that disability recipients who do not hire an attorney to represent them at their re-determination hearings will lose their benefits.

Unrepresented Claimants should not go through one of these complicated re-determination hearings without a lawyer. People appearing before SSA Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) can get a free lawyer on a contingent fee basis. The attorney does not get paid unless the client wins the case.  That amounts to a free lawyer.

Many disability recipients do not hire legal representation for their hearings. They stand a good chance of losing their benefits.

Even some who were represented at Re-Determination Hearings  are still anxious to hear results.

“Not knowing … that’s been the worst thing is not knowing and trying to prepare in case you do lose your benefits,” one beneficiary said.

One attorney who specializes in representing Social Security Claimants has said in recent weeks several people have told him they’ve thought about killing themselves if they lose their benefits.

The suicide chatter is way up,” the Attorney said. “It was especially bad around Christmas. Unfortunately people have got this unfortunate response that suicide is somehow a rational response to losing their benefits”, the attorney said.

Family members of two people who killed themselves in 2015 are suing the Social Security Administration, because they believe that the Social Security Administration’s decision to terminate disability benefit checks was the reason they committed suicide. The families of of John Daniel Jude and Emma Burchett are convinced that the termination of their SSA benefits played a substantial role in their deaths.

Attorneys for John Daniel Jude and Emma Burchett filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, KY.

The lawsuit alleges Burchett’s husband, Leroy Burchett, and Jude’s wife, Melissa Jude, killed themselves in June after getting notice that their benefits would be suspended.

More than 1,000 former clients of Attorney Eric Conn received the same letter after Attorney Conn was accused of colluding with  Social Security Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty to rig Social Security cases.

These are desperate times for many people in America who were once considered among the Middle Class. They have seen their living standards decline and are struggling to make ends meet. Many were laid off in the last eight years and have not been able to find new jobs. They are not counted in the Unemployment Statistics because they have dropped out of the labor pool. Many are between the ages of 50 and 65 and do not yet qualify for Social Security Retirement Benefits. They have not even reached the age when they would be eligible to apply for early retirement. For many Baby Boomers that is around age 62.

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Thousands Of Americans Are Afraid To Appear At Social Security Hearings

Attorneys worry 1,000 or more Social Security beneficiaries will lose checks when re-evaluated.

Attorneys representing hundreds of people fighting to keep their Social Security federal disability benefits worry those benefits may disappear for most of them if they do not have a lawyer.

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) orders thousands of  people to attend Re-Evaluation hearings to determine whether they should continue receiving disability checks.

Many of those people are former clients of  Attorney Eric C. Conn.

In 2011 a story appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerning the high rate in which SSA Judges approved Social Security disability cases.

Allegations of fraud came under investigation by a U.S. Senate committee Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was the Chairman of The Senate Committee. The Committee’s Report found widespread fraud and a veritable “disability claim factory” allegedly  run by Attorney Eric C. Conn out of his small office in Stanville, Kentucky, a region of the country where 10 to 15 percent of the population  receives disability payments.

The report documents how Attorney Conn allegedly worked together with Social Security Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty (ALJ)  and a team of favored doctors with checkered pasts, including suspended licenses in other states, who rubber stamped approval of disability claims. In most cases, the claims had been prepared in advance with nearly identical language by staffers in Conn’s law office.

The report found that over the past six years, Attorney Conn allegedly paid five doctors almost $2 million to provide favorable disability opinions for his claimants.

In 2010, the last year for which records are available, Judge Daugherty approved 1375 disability cases prepared by Attorney Conn’s office and denied only 4 of them – an approval  rate that other administrative law judges have described as nearly  impossible.

Judge Daugherty, 78 years old, processed more cases than all but three judges in the U.S. He had a wry view of his less-generous peers. “Some of these judges act like it’s their own damn money we’re giving away,” ALJ Daugherty told a fellow Huntington SSA ALJ, Algernon Tinsley, who worked in the same office, Mr. Tinsley recalled.

The report found, “Judge Daugherty telephoned the Conn law firm each month and identified a list of Mr. Conn’s disability claimants to whom the judge planned to award benefits. Judge Daugherty also indicated, for each listed claimant, whether he needed a “physical” or “mental” opinion from a medical professional indicating the claimant was disabled.”

The report says that when Senate staffers and the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General began an investigation based on tips from whistle blowers in the Social Security Hearing Office, Attorney Conn and Judge Daugherty began communicating with disposable, pre-paid cell phones. It also alleges they contracted with a local shredding company to destroy 13 tons of documents.

Attorney Conn also allegedly destroyed all the computer hard drives in his office, a la Hillary Clinton at the State Department.

In 2011, the SSA placed Daugherty on administrative leave. He retired shortly after that.

In October 2013 a West Virginia Police Report said Judge Daugherty was found unconscious in his car in a Barboursville, WVa. church parking lot.

The report said the police found a garden hose running from the car’s exhaust into the passenger side of the vehicle.

Judge Daugherty was taken to a hospital and later released.

Conn has not been charged with a crime. He is suspected by congressional investigators of using fraudulent information to win the benefits. Attorney Conn’s legal fate remains in the hands of the Obama Justice Department.

A prevailing concern is that disability recipients who do not hire an attorney to represent them at their re-determination hearings will lose their benefits.

Unrepresented Claimants should not go through one of these complicated re-determination hearings without a lawyer. People appearing before SSA Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) can get a free lawyer on a contingent fee basis. The attorney does not get paid unless the client wins the case.  That amounts to a free lawyer.

Many disability recipients do not hire legal representation for their hearings. They stand a good chance of losing their benefits.

Even some who were represented at Re-Determination Hearings  are still anxious to hear results.

“Not knowing … that’s been the worst thing is not knowing and trying to prepare in case you do lose your benefits,” one beneficiary said.

One attorney who specializes in representing Social Security Claimants has said in recent weeks several people have told him they’ve thought about killing themselves if they lose their benefits.

The suicide chatter is way up,” the Attorney said. “It was especially bad around Christmas. Unfortunately people have got this unfortunate response that suicide is somehow a rational response to losing their benefits”, the attorney said.

These are desperate times for many people in America who were once considered among the Middle Class. They have seen their living standards decline and are struggling to make ends meet. Many were laid off in the last eight years and have not been able to find new jobs. They are not counted in the Unemployment Statistics because they have dropped out of the labor pool. Many are between the ages of 50 and 65 and do not yet qualify for Social Security Retirement Benefits. They have not even reached the age when they would be eligible to apply for early retirement. For many Baby Boomers that is around age 62.

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Would Meaningful Reforms Restore Dignity and Efficacy To The Social Security System?

Would Meaningful Reforms Restore Dignity and Efficacy To The Social Security System?

Disability Claim Denied? Find the Right JudgeSocialSecurityStory

Nine percent of the judges who hear appeals grant benefits 90% of the time, costing taxpayers tens of billions.

A Social Security hearing is not a trial; it is a fact finding inquiry. The system is not even an adversarial system as defined by the judicial process. In an adversarial system, both sides are represented. In the present Social Security Disability Claims System the claimant can bring an attorney, but the system does not provide the government (SSA) with one. The taxpayers have no advocate on their behalf to ask questions, challenge medical evidence or review the 500 to 700 pages of materials that make up a typical case file.
http://www.amazon.com/Judge-London-Steverson/e/B006WQKFJM
The (Social Security Administration) judicial system is not run by anyone with real judicial experience. It is at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats whose only concern is how many cases each judge can churn out and how fast he or she can do it. An adversarial system with both sides represented and all evidence on the table is the best way to root out fraud and ensure that legitimate claims are paid.
(See http://www.amazon.com/socialNsecurity-Confessions-Social-Security-Judge/dp/1449569757)
(Below is an Extract from the book, “socialNsecurity, Confessions of a Social Security Judge”.)An Interview of Judge D. RANDALL FRYE, President Association of Social Security Administrative Law Judges (AALJ) JAN. 19, 2014

(Above pictured is D. Randall Frye, on the right, with Marilyn Zahm)

 CHARLOTTE, N.C. — (QUOTE) IT’S hard to imagine a more cynical fraud. According to an indictment unsealed last week by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, post-9/11 phobias of airplanes and skyscrapers were among the fictitious ailments described by retired New York City police officers and firefighters who, in a scheme involving as many as 1,000 people, are accused of ripping off the Social Security disability system by filing false claims.
As an administrative law judge (ALJ) responsible for hearing Social Security disability cases (SSDI), I’m more familiar than most people with the system. But everyone has a right to be outraged by the recent charges. Officials estimate that the fraud cost the federal government $400 million. If true, it is the largest theft in the history of Social Security.
According to court papers, the fraudsters claimed to be so ill that they could not leave their homes to work, but many posted photographs on Facebook of themselves on motorcycles and water scooters, fishing and playing sports. How did they expect to get away with it?
Well, here’s a little-known fact. Neither the staff members of the Social Security Administration, who review initial claims, nor judges like myself, who hear disputed cases, are allowed to look at Facebook in the context of a case. Even if something in the case file suggests a claimant is not telling the whole truth, Social Security Administration policy prevents us from looking at social media, for fear that we cannot be trusted to properly assess the information gathered there. No Facebook, no Pinterest, no Twitter, no Tumblr. None of the sources that most employers routinely use to check the credibility of potential employees are available to us.
It gets worse. When a disputed case comes before an administrative law judge, a vast majority of claimants bring an attorney. After all, the average claim, if successful, will yield a payout of some $300,000 in lifetime benefits. With so much at stake, it’s only reasonable that a person who believes that he has wrongly been denied benefits would hire a lawyer. But isn’t it equally reasonable that the taxpayers should have an attorney present to challenge a claim that might be false?
Sorry, no luck. When I conduct a hearing (which occurs with no members of the press or public present, because of privacy concerns), the claimant can bring an attorney, but the system does not provide the government (SSA) with one. The taxpayers have no advocate on their behalf to ask questions, challenge medical evidence or review the 500 to 700 pages of materials that make up a typical case file. Not only that, but because of Social Security Administration policy, I am no longer allowed to order independent psychological testing to help determine whether a claimant is telling the truth.
Social Security disability courts have millions of claimants and constitute one of the world’s largest judicial systems. But the (Social Security) judicial system is not run by anyone with real judicial experience. Instead, we are at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats whose only concern is how many cases each judge can churn out and how fast we can do it. The Social Security Administration is currently run by an acting commissioner; President Obama should appoint a permanent leader with recognized professional experience in the field of social insurance.
The Association of Administrative Law Judges AALJ), for which I serve as president, favors modernizing disability hearings so that we can give claimants a fair hearing while also protecting taxpayers. Our courtrooms ought to look more like what you see on “Law and Order” or “The Good Wife.” Each side should have an advocate, allowing judges to narrow the facts in dispute and apply the law in a neutral manner. And judges and their staff members should be able to use social media, including Facebook.
Though it is not clear from the Manhattan district attorney’s indictment if any of the claims in question ever wound up before an ALJ, it is clear than the current antiquated system handicaps the effective review of cases and encourages brazen behavior.
The system needs to be made more trustworthy and fully transparent. The actions of a few crooks must not be allowed to threaten the disability payments of millions of people who are genuinely disabled, many of whom paid into the disability insurance fund during their working lives. An adversarial system with both sides represented and all evidence on the table is the best way to root out fraud and ensure that legitimate claims are paid.(UNQUOTE)
D. Randall Frye was an administrative law judge (ALJ) for the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) and the President of the AALJ, Association of Administrative Law Judges.

The Association Of Administrative Law Judges(AALJ), union representing administrative law judges, says judges are required to decide 500 to 700 cases a year in an effort to reduce the hearings backlog. The union says the requirement is an illegal quota that leads judges to sometimes award benefits they might otherwise deny just to keep up with the flow of cases. according to a federal lawsuit filed by the judges’ union in April.The Social Security Administration says the agency’s administrative law judges (ALJs) should decide 500 to 700 disability cases a year. The agency calls the standard a productivity goal, but a lawsuit filed in April 2013 by the Social Security Judges against the Commissioner and the Agency claims it is an illegal quota that requires judges to decide an average of more than two cases per workday.

‘‘When the goals are too high, the easy way out is to pay the case,’’ said Randall Frye, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ) and a judge in Charlotte, N.C. ‘‘Paying the case is a decision that might be three pages long. When you deny benefits, it’s usually a 15- or 20-page denial that takes a lot more time and effort.’’

The lawsuit raises serious questions about the integrity of the disability hearing process by the very people in charge of running it. It comes as the disability program faces serious financial problems.

The agency denies there is a case quota for judges and says the standard is a productivity goal.“I find it interesting that there is so much wringing of the hands about a judge who pays almost 100% of his cases, as if the agency didn’t know about it, as if the agency wasn’t complicit in it, as if the agency didn’t encourage it,” said Marilyn Zahm, a Social Security judge in Buffalo, NY who is an executive vice president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ), the judges’ union.

Judge Zahm had a lot more to say in an interview in October 2009. (Read the entire interview starting at page 430 in my book, socialNsecurity, available at  http://www.amazon.com/SocialNsecurity-ebook/dp/B006VOQIKK

President Richard Nixon had his Enemies List. President George Bush had his Wanted List. President Barack Obama has his Kill List; and Linda de Soto has her “Hit List“. Lisa De Soto is the Deputy Commissioner for SSA/ODAR, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability and Adjudication Review. Deputy Commissioner Linda de Soto and Chief Administrative Law Judge Frank Cristaudo fabricated bogus charges against Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) and forced many into early retirement.

Former Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue, who took office in 2007, like every Commissioner before him tried his own brand of reform. He made changes to the Social Security Operating System.

Trying to reduce the Backlog, he tinkered with the personnel system. Mostly, he went after the ALJs. He blamed the ALJs for everything. He was a “blame the Judges first” man.

His reforms produced minor and temporary results. The Backlog was reduced for a moment in time. His programs to increase accountability and judicial turnover were a disaster.He removed good experienced ALJs and replaced them with new, inexperienced and easily manipulated ALJ recruits who could be told how to decide cases.

He had a formula for how many claimants should be granted benefits and how many should be denied. The new ALJs lack proper judicial temperament, and that is what Astrue was after.
He wanted to take away the judicial independence of the judges. It was a numbers game, and a highly volume business.

Along with Linda de Soto ,Astrue marked every ALJ with 15 to 20 years experience on the job for removal. Experienced and senior male judges were forced to retire so that less experienced radical feminist female judges could be installed as Chief ALJ in the Hearing Offices. This was most prevalent in California, in the SSA’s Ninth Region.

Linda DeSoto proudly bragged about the number of judges on her “Hit List” that she had to get rid of. At any one time there were 25 or more judges on her Hit List.

Judges were ordered to retire or resign. Any who refused were brought up on charges. The charges were flimsy and ridiculous; such as, receiving personal mail and magazines at the Office, using the OHA Office address on their official business cards (that were designed, ordered, and printed by the SSA Agency), storing pictures deemed inappropriate on their personal computers (pc), looking at inappropriate web sites during office hours or after hours, writing letters on obsolete stationary with SSA letterheads no longer in use, and using their titles (U. S. Administrative Law Judge) when signing personal letters. Judges’ offices were searched without their knowledge on weekends when they were not present. Judges’ phone conversations were monitored. Their privacy was invaded. Their computers were searched and seized without notice or warning. Some judges went to lunch and came back to the office to find their computers had been taken by Astrue’s henchmen. Judges were locked out of their personal offices. The locks to the main SSA work place were changed and ALJs were not given the new office key. Moreover, if any cases went to NLRB Hearings, the Agency suborned perjury, and disobeyed their own Agency Rules. Astrue’s policies were a disaster. He demoralized the ALJ corps, and morale among the judges plummeted. As a result the administrative staff was confused and frustrated. This atmosphere caused efficiency to suffer and increased the Backlog.

Administrative Law Judge Katherine Morgan, who is 71, sued the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Commissioner of SSA in U.S. District Court in Portland for age and sex discrimination in March 2015.

Judge Katherine Morgan ruled on disability cases for the SSA. She sued the SSA accusing her supervisors of age and gender discrimination and retaliating against her for filing complaints about her treatment.

Judge Katherine Morgan, one of seven judges in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (SSA/ODAR) in Portland, said in the lawsuit filed Thursday, March 19th, in U.S. District Court in Portland that she was targeted by the office’s chief judge (CALJ)because of her age. She is 71.

 Morgan, who has been a judge since 1994, filed a written complaint to her immediate supervisor, Chief Judge Guy Fletcher, after she was told on Dec. 11, 2013, that she was being targeted in an investigation by the SSA for her performance. The investigation focused on Morgan’s high production rate in deciding cases, for approving a high number of appeals and for attendance issues, according to the lawsuit.

“Chief Judge Fletcher repeatedly falsely accused Judge Morgan of time and attendance violations for documenting her time and attendance in exactly the same manner as the other judges, who were not accused,” the lawsuit says. “The discriminatory conduct directed at Judge Morgan by her fellow employees was known to and acquiesced in by her direct supervisor, Chief Judge Fletcher. The discriminatory conduct was directed at Judge Morgan by Chief Judge Fletcher was known to and acquiesced in by Regional Chief Judge (Carol) Sax, Chief Judge Fletcher’s direct supervisor. The discriminatory conduct was intentional, willful and malicious, entitling Judge Morgan to an award of punitive damages.”
The lawsuit did not specify how much money Morgan was seeking. She demanded a jury trial seeking damages for lost money, emotional pain, compensation allowed by law and other legal fees.
The lawsuit was filed on Morgan’s behalf by attorneys from the Portland law firm Norman, Hanson and DeTroy. One of her attorneys, Theodore Kirchner, declined through a member of his staff to respond.
A regional spokesman for the Social Security Administration, Roberto Medina, could not be reached for comment.
Maine’s offices of Disability Adjudication and Review routinely took longer to decide disability appeals than the national average and approved more disability claims than the national average, according Social Security Administration data compiled by the website www.disabilityjudges.com.
In the most recent fiscal year, Maine judges approved 53 percent of disability claim appeals, dismissed 24 percent of claims and denied 23 percent, according to the website’s statistics.
Morgan approved more appeals than any other judge in the Portland office. She approved 65 percent of disability claim appeals, dismissed 20 percent and denied 15 percent. She decided 148 cases from last Oct. 1 to March 11.
By comparison, Judge Fletcher approved 54 percent of appeals, dismissed 15 percent and denied 31 percent. He decided 48 cases in the same period.
Judge John Edwards approved the fewest appeals in the Portland office, with 35 percent approved, 30 percent dismissed and 34 percent denied. He decided 151 cases.

Using  the Medical Vocational Grids or simply The Listings, until about 1995 every person in America who filed for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSI and SSID) and alleged a mental impairment because of drug or alcohol addiction was granted benefits. All the winos, alcoholics and misfits with the slightest mental impairment were conclusively presumed to be incapable of engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and therefore were entitled to draw Social Security Benefits according to Social Security Regulations.

Those Regulations were contained in The Listings or The Grid. All SSA Judges were duty bound and required to follow them. Many healthy people who were injured and could not work were denied benefits when the drunks and derelicts of American society were granted benefits. It bordered on a public scandal.

The Regulations they followed were known as the Medical Vocational Grids or simply The Listings. They were not always logical; like a camel is a horse designed by a committee. The Listings were designed by Social Security scholars.

For instance, the bar to benefits approval was and still is lower for someone who doesn’t speak English, on the theory that it is difficult to work in America when you cannot speak English.
These guidelines (in The Listings) also do not give due consideration to actual labor market experience, dictating a looser approval standard for someone with only a high-school degree, even if the person has succeeded in the labor force for decades.
The framework (of The Listings) was developed in the late 1950s, for the previous generation’s workforce, and hasn’t been updated since 1978.

According to a well placed source high in the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge, Lisa de Soto had stated that she had a list of 25 ALJs that she intended to get rid of. This was her “Hit List”. She set about her goal in a most vigorous manner.

A federal agency is required to follow its own regulations. This mean very little to Lisa de Soto and Frank Cristaudo. They have violated many SSA regulations concerning the discipline and removal of agency personnel.

Cristaudo and de Soto have brought charges against judges. Chief Judge Cristaudo has testified at Federal Labor Relations Administrative hearings designed to censure or remove judges. None of the charges against any of the judges have alleged poor performance as a judge, or dereliction of duty. No substantive charges have been brought against any judges. Instead, judges have been charged with, among other things, receiving personal mail at the office, misuse of a government computer, and saving pictures on their computers of persons other than immediate family members.

Frank Cristaudo has made a career of destroying other peoples’ careers. He tried running for public office in New Jersey and could not get elected. Some how he managed to get appointed an administrative law judge at the Social Security Administration. He could not conduct a proper hearing so someone appointed him as the Chief Judge. Who better to appoint chief judge than someone who cannot conduct a hearing? It is better to put such a person in an administrative position. That way he does not have to go near a court room. But in a rat race, the biggest rat always manages to winnow his way to the top.

Linda de Soto’s career had not bottomed out before joining SSA. She was the Social Security Administration’s General Counsel. She is an experienced attorney who has held a number of senior management positions in the private and federal sector. She specialized in procurement, bilateral and multilateral negotiations, conflict resolution and organizational change. Most recently, she was the Country Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (AID) Office of Transition Initiatives in Nigeria. Before that, she served as the General Counsel of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and as Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Contract and Commodity Management for the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) in Washington, D.C.

Not all judges are paid to judge. One-fifth of SSA’s judges do not hold hearings. That is one out of five judges who do not judge. Twenty percent of the judges on the SSA’s payroll do not conduct hearings. Some judges are allowed to carry a reduced work load. An an example, judges who are union representatives are not counted as full judges. They are counted as one fourth of a judge. If the average full-time judge is required to publish 60 decisions per month, then ALJs who are union representatives are only required to publish 12 to 15 decisions per month. All ALJs earn between $164,000.00 and $169,000.00 per year. That works out to roughly between $14,500.00 and $16,000.00 per month to decide 12 to 15 cases. That translates to loosely $1,250.00 per decision per month.

http://www.amazon.com/Judge-London-Steverson/e/B006WQKFJM

Some of these judges, paralegals, and legal secretaries once took their comfortable life-styles for granted, but not anymore. All of that has changed, since Lisa de Soto and Judge Frank Cristaudo started forcing judges into retirement. All of this has occurred at the same time as the American economy has taken a steep downturn. Judges have lost homes and families.

Many judges, lawyers, paralegals, administrative staff workers are finding out what it is like to be without a job. Many for the first time in their lives cannot find any work. To make matters worse, most of them are old people. They are loosing their jobs, homes, cars, cell phones, health insurance, and middle-class life styles never to be regained. At their ages no one will hire them. Summer vacations and having dinner out have become distant memories.

Several current and former Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”) testified before Congress that the Social Security Administration is purportedly pushing ALJs to award benefits (or grant benefits) in an effort to reduce the rather large backlog of disability claims in the system. This further feeds the misperception that ALJs are approving claims willy-nilly left and right. Just as there are Judges who have high approval rates or grant rates (the percentage of claims approved out of all claims disposed), there are Judges who have extremely low grant rates and deny the vast majority of claims that they decide.

Nick A. Ortiz, Esq. crunched the data from all Social Security disability claims decided in Fiscal Year 2012. The data was found here: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/appeals/DataSets/Archive/archive_data_reports.html. [Update: the raw, unedited data can be found here in the archives for 2012: http://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/archive/archive_data_reports.html#ht=1].

 http://www.nickortizlaw.com/the-50-social-security-administrative-law-judges-with-the-worst-grant-rates-in-2012/

Age makes it more difficult to find a job. People who did everything right professionally have reached old age and find themselves on the verge of destitution. Middle level managers and accountants can not get interviews at McDonald’s for a job as a cashier.

Long years of experience are no longer an asset. The job skills that older workers have acquired are no longer needed in today’s job market. Employers today are looking for younger workers without health problems and who know how to use the many word-processing programs used to produce legal documents and client letters.

Richard Eggers is a 68 years old resident of Des Moines, Iowa. He was fired in July 2012 from his job as a customer service representative at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage because of an incident that occurred in 1963, over 50 years ago, according to the Des Moines Register. He put a cardboard cutout of a dime in a washing machine. He admits it was a stupid stunt, but he cannot believe that he was fired because of it 50 years later. Big banks have been firing older low-level employees like Eggers since new federal banking employment guidelines were enacted in May 2011 and new mortgage employment guidelines took hold in February, it was reported in the Des Moines Register.

The tougher standards are meant to clear out older executives and mid-level bank employees and anyone guilty of transactional crimes — such as identity theft and money laundering — but are being applied across the board against older employees.

Wells Fargo confirmed Eggers’ termination. “The expectations that have been placed on us and all financial institutions have never been higher,” said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Angela Kaipust.

Banks have fired thousands of workers nationally, said Natasha Buchanan, an attorney in Santa Ana, Calif., who has helped some of the workers regain their eligibility to be employed.

There is no government or industry data on the number of older bank workers fired due to criminal background checks.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. provides a waiver process employees can follow to show they’re still fit to work at a bank despite a past criminal conviction, but it usually takes six months to a year to be approved. There is also a process for automatic waiver that works more quickly but is limited to people who were sentenced to less than year of jail time and never spent a day locked up. Eggers was jailed two days. Sadly, he doesn’t qualify. So he joins the ranks of the older unemployed who may never find another job.

America is fast becoming a land where there are no jobs for old people. Government employees from the Senior Executive Service to the lowliest General Service employee, along with Fortune 500 middle management executives, and super lawyers from multi-national law firms are being shown the door. America has more lawyers per capita than any other country in the world. Americans love to sue each other.

In the most litigation-happy country in the world, lawyers are being fired. Today’s recession is not like the recession of the 1930′s. Typically when the economy goes down, lawsuit filings go up, according to a former super lawyer who was let go from a prominent law firm. The only kind of legal filings that have gone up in this economy are bankruptcy cases. When the housing bubble bursted, the number of people filing for bankruptcy went through the roof. Lawsuit filings in general have gone down.

You may not feel old, but Social Security Regulations define who is an old person. Because of a vigorous and healthy life style, you might feel much younger than you are. Your chronological age could be 55, and your friends might flatter you by saying 55 today is the new 45. However, government and business managers have regulations that tell them whether you are an old person. According to those regulations, if you are age 55 or older, then you are an old person. You will not be considered approaching retirement age until you are 62.

Many Americans will not have a job after age 55. The American middle class has suffered a direct hit buy this recession. Social Security retirement benefits have become the number one retirement plan in America. Those under age 62 who are too young to collect retirement benefits are applying for Social Security Disability Benefits in record numbers.

The waiting time for a disability case to be decided may be as long as five years. In that period of time families have lost their homes, small business owners have lost their businesses, and ended up living on the streets using credit cards to buy food. Depression and anxiety are at an epidemic level.

The Obama Administration bailed out Wall Street, but not main street. Bankers and Wall Street traders are feeling no pain. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said that he feels the pain of the older aged workers, who represent about 41 percent of the 12.8 million unemployed workers. Many of the chronic unemployed older people have given up and stopped looking for work. Their job skills have atrophied. Their business contacts have dried up. They have lost their homes and cannot afford descent apartments based on their Social Security Benefits and Food Stamp payments. As they struggle to survive on food stamps, credit cards and Social Security, without cars or cell phones, these older unemployed former middle-class workers are losing their dignity and some are even committing suicide.

Jane Durant is a 57 year old legal secretary at a large law firm in Pennsylvania. After spending 10 years at a smaller law firm, she took a job at a larger firm 11 years ago. In 2009 she was laid off when her law firm underwent a large reduction in force (RIF). Today she is still unemployed. She has exhausted her severance package, used up 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, and has been forced to dip into her retirement funds. She has cut back to one meal a day and has applied for food stamps. Her food stamp application was refused because she still had a small savings account. After 60 job interviews and no offers of even part-time work, she believes she is a victim of age discrimination.

Claude Davis was a California attorney living the good life trading up in real estate, going from a smaller house to a larger one. He was riding the real estate bubble. He bought his last house for over a million dollars with no money down and no interest with an adjustable rate mortgage for the first five years. At the end of five years he would be facing a large balloon payment that would come due. This was not the first time he had purchased a home under these terms. As long as he was working he expected to be able to come up with the cash. He never expected to lose his job. He thought that legal jobs were recession proof. Then the unexpected happened. He was terminated. For a while he managed to get by doing small contracts and by dipping into his retirement funds. When the balloon mortgage payment came due, he was not able to make the payment. He lost his house and his middle class life style. He thinks he will never be able to get another legal job like his last one because he can no longer work the 12 to 14 hour days that are required to get ahead in most law firms. Younger more recent law school graduates are grabbing all the starting legal jobs. Claude Davis is 55 years old and he believes that he also is a victim of age discrimination.

Their misfortune has broader consequences for society as a whole as well as for America’s standing in the world. These former lawyers, administrative law judges, paralegals, corporate executives, and small business owners who are struggling to survive in this hostile economy may be the canaries in the coal mine for America. Their social and economic conditions will have broader and more far-reaching consequences for America and could signal that we are slipping into a welfare society and a less prestigious nation.

In our weakening, job-starved economy what can older unemployed former workers expect in the next 4 years? Does it matter who is elected President?

How would older unemployed Americans answer the question “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago”?

Governor Martin O’Malley, (D-Md.) an a speaker at the Democratic National Convention said “NO!” He said the country is worse off, and by implication that older Americans are worse off. Gov. O’Malley spoke during a televised interview on CBS Sunday.

What applies to the general population, goes double for the older unemployed American workers. What have the last 4 years brought? Since November 2008, national unemployment has gone from 6.8% to8.3%. Unemployment for old Americans still looking for work is estimated to be above 33% and still climbing.

Since November 2008 the Poverty Level in the USA has gone from 13% to 15%, and that is also rising at a breath-taking pace. In the last 4 years the numbers of Food Stamp recipients have increased from 30.9 million to 44.7 million.

That number would be greater if every older American who applied were granted Food Stamps.But, not everyone who applies receives Food Stamps. Take for an example Jane Durant the 57 year old legal secretary in Pennsylvania who was turned down because had not used up all of her savings account. When she becomes completely destitute, she will qualify for Food Stamps.

That will contribute to a Federal Debt that was $10 Trillion four years ago, but has grown to $16 Trillion today. And the price of a gallon of gas has almost doubled at the pump.

A second wave of mortgage foreclosures has hit nationwide like a giant tsunami. In Maryland alone 20,000 new foreclosures were filed in the 1st Quarter of 2012. More than 37million homes have been lost to foreclosure in the last 4 years. The States with the highest foreclosure rates are CA, FL, NV, OH, PA, and Md..

Since November 2008 the Poverty Level in the USA has gone from 13% to 15%, and that is also rising at a breath-taking  pace. The poorest city in America is Redding, PA where the Poverty Rate is 41.3%. According to the U. S. Census Bureau the Poverty Rate is 33% in Detroit, MI; and 30% in Buffalo, NY; 28% in Cincinnati,OH; 27% in Cleveland,OH; 27% in Miami, FL; 27% in St. Louis, MO; 26% in El Paso, TX; 26% in Milwauki, WI; and 25% in Philadelphia, PA.

Poverty and unemployment, along with escalating high school drop out rates are fueling crime across America. On the first day of school in Baltimore, MD a student was shot in the cafeteria with a shot gun. Police shot 8 innocent people on their way to work in New York City in front of the Empire State Building. There were mass shootings at a movie theater in Denver, CO and at a Sikh Temple in Milwaukee, WI. And Chicago,IL has had a record 31% increase in murders this year.

What is driving the American economy over the cliff? What is turning the American Dream into a real nightmare for older Americans who cannot find work? Who will save America and old unemployed Americans from poverty? These are people who were the “middle class” for the first 50 years of their lives.
Older Americans are looking for a white knight who can save them from spending their senior years in poverty. They want someone who will avoid the fiscal cliff. Will it be a white knight with black stripes, or will it be a black knight with white stripes?

After last weeks blistering appraisal by the Federal Reserve Bank Chairman, Ben Bernake, of the amount of damage the high unemployment has inflicted on our economy and that it will last for many years to come, is there any wonder that old people feel hopeless, betrayed, and mad as hell?

The wisdom in working for the federal government at the highest levels has become akin to that of marrying King Henry VIII — it’s great to be asked, but there’s always that likelihood that eventually, your head will roll.

To all parties involved in a trial, the slam of a gavel should indicate that justice has been served. Unfortunately, this is often not the case with Social Security Disability (SSDI and SSI) appeals. A system designed to serve society’s vulnerable has morphed into a benefit bonanza that costs taxpayers billions of dollars more than it should. The disability trust fund will become insolvent in 2016, and Congress would be wise to begin much needed reform.
A disability applicant whose claim is rejected during the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) first two stages ( before State Disability Determination Services)  can appeal the decision to administrative-law judges (ALJ). These judges must impartially balance the claims of the applicant against the interests of taxpayers.
Over the past decade judicial impartiality has declined significantly, as many administrative-law judges uncritically approve most claims. In 2008 judges on average approved about 70% of claims before them, according to the Social Security Administration. Nine percent of judges approved more than 90% of benefit requests that landed on their desks.
Do nine out of every 10 applicants appealing denied claims need societal support? There are reasons for skepticism. The data show that judges who are generous in granting benefits are consistently generous over time—which is suspicious, since each year they should hear a random set of new cases. The more discerning judges—those who award benefits less than 90% of the time—are more unpredictable from year to year.

Social Security Administration Routinely Refuses To Obey Decisions Of Federal Courts

Driven to reduce a huge backlog of disability claims, Social Security is pushing judges to award benefits to people who may not deserve them, several current and former judges told Congress Thursday June 27, 2013.

Judge Larry Butler, an administrative law judge (ALJ) from Fort Myers, Fla., called the system “paying down the backlog.”

(For a complete explanation of the term “paying down the backlog” see socialNsecurity by Judge L. Steverson, USALJ (Ret.)

The approval rates among ALJs can be quite arbitrary. One ALJ might reverse 9 out of 10 cases and another might deny 9 out of 10 cases. It all depends on the luck of the draw.

There is a practice called “Paying Down The Back Log”. This is where a judge just reverses every case on his docket and grants benefits to the claimant. Some ALJs have been known to do this with no regard at all for the merits of the case. Judges have been known to pay 200 cases or more on-the –record in this manner. Sometimes the Commissioner will take action to stop them. Other times he does not. (Steverson, Judge London, socialNsecurity, p. 19)
http://www.amazon.com/Judge-London-Steverson/e/B006WQKFJM

A former Social Security Judge, J.E. Sullivan, said, “The only thing that matters in the adjudication process is signing that final decision.” Sullivan is now an administrative law judge for the Department of Transportation.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating why many judges have high approval rates for claims already rejected twice by field offices or state agencies. Two current and two former judges spoke at a subcommittee hearing.

The number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits has increased by 44 percent over the past decade, pushing the trust fund that supports the program to the brink of insolvency.

Social Security officials say the primary reason for the increase is a surge in baby boomers who are more prone to disability as they age. Deputy Social Security Commissioner Glenn Sklar noted that the vast majority of disability claims are initially denied.

“I think the data kind of speaks for itself,” Sklar told lawmakers.

To qualify for benefits, people are supposed to have disabilities that prevent them from working and are expected to last at least a year or result in death.

According to Social Security data, there were errors in 22 percent of the cases decided in 2011, Sklar said. He said some errors were procedural and did not necessarily result in incorrect decisions.

“The true wrong rate would be less than 10 percent,” Sklar said.

Nearly 11 million disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security disability benefits. That compares with 7.6 million a decade ago. The average monthly benefit for a disabled worker is $1,130.

An additional 8.3 million people get Supplemental Security Income, a separately funded disability program for low-income people.

“The Social Security Administration has failed to take steps to address the problem of rapid disability growth, probably because the agency has failed to recognize many of the problems,” said Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., the subcommittee chairman.

None of the judges who testified spoke of being specifically ordered to award claims. Three said they had been pressured to decide cases without fully reviewing medical files.

The judges described a system in which there is very little incentive to deny claims, but lots of pressure to approve them. It requires more documentation to deny a claim than to approve one, said Sullivan, the former Social Security judge. Also, rejected claims can be appealed while approved claims are not.
There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to push cases out the door as soon as possible,” Sullivan said in an interview after the hearing. “There’s a push to pay mentality.
Butler, the current judge, told the subcommittee, “I think you need to look at the issue of paying down the backlog. It’s not media hype, its real and for six years it’s been going on.”

If the judges with award rates topping 90% are removed from the data, the rate of denial increases by 2%-3% annually. That amounts to 98,000 claims from 2005-11. Assuming an average lifetime award of $250,000, taxpayers would have saved $23 billion over those six years had the worst judges left the bench. If we lower the threshold to exclude judges with award rates north of 85%, these savings increase to $41 billion.
Former Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue, who took office in 2007, made much-needed changes. Incompetent incumbents saw their influence diluted by new judges drawn from fresh candidate lists. Judicial decisions are now randomly reviewed to ensure that the court remains impartial and fair to taxpayers. Judges were limited to hearing 1,000 cases a year (the figure has since been lowered to 700), and individuals are allowed only one disability application at a time.
Mr. Astrue’s reforms have produced good results. In 2011 judges with award rates exceeding 90% heard a mere 4% of all cases, a 63.6% decline from 2008. But Mr. Astrue’s term expired in 2013, and these changes can easily be undone, either intentionally by future administrators, or unintentionally as bad habits slip back into the system.
His program to increase accountability and judicial turnover should be made permanent. Congress should also institute 15-year term limits for judges, who currently enjoy lifetime tenure, to ensure that fresh legal minds are joining the stale judicial aristocracy. A term of a decade and a half is long enough to insulate judges and prevent undue political influence.
The system faces a huge backlog, made worse by claimants who play adjudication roulette, filing and then withdrawing appeals in hopes of drawing a generous judge. Congress can limit this gamesmanship by allowing only one application per claimant in a three-year period. Because judges must marshal more documentation for a denial than an approval, they have an incentive to grant benefits to keep the system chugging along. The agency can fix this by further limiting the number of cases each judge must decide to 500 from 700.
The system is further complicated because even if a claimant has legal counsel, the judge must advocate on the claimant’s behalf. This dual role should be ended. Most claimants—85%—now have third-party representation. These professionals should be held responsible for getting supporting materials into court expeditiously and completely so the record can be closed in a timely manner.
Even under better legal rules, judges will still face rigid and outdated guidelines for granting benefits. The framework they must follow—known as the Medical Vocational Grid (known as The Listings)—is formulaic to the point of senselessness. For instance, the bar to benefits approval is lower for someone who doesn’t speak English, on the theory that it is difficult to find a job without the language. But that English rule is also applied to claimants from Puerto Rico, where the language of business is Spanish.
These guidelines (in The Listings) also do not give due consideration to actual labor market experience, dictating a looser approval standard for someone with only a high-school degree, even if the person has succeeded in the labor force for decades.
The framework (of The Listings) was developed in the late 1950s, for the previous generation’s workforce, and hasn’t been updated since 1978. Decades ago workers ages 50 or 55 might have been considered retiring, but this is no longer generally the case. Novel job-training programs also make it easier than ever for workers to move into new fields and make up for low levels of education, and new disability criteria would account for these changes.
These solutions would begin to deliver meaningful reform to Social Security disability awards. They can restore dignity and efficacy to a troubled system.
(BY Mark J. Warshawsky And Ross A. Marchand, March 8, 2015)
(Mr. Warshawsky is a visiting scholar at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University and a former member of the Social Security Advisory Board from 2006 to 2012. Mr. Marchand is a first-year economics graduate student at George Mason University.)

Categories: Social Security Benefits | 3 Comments

More Bad News From Social Security

The Biggest Change to Social Security You’ve Never Heard About

 

2014-06-13-ssaofficeclosed.jpg

There’s been lots of debate and discussion lately about how to shore up Social Security for future generations. But already there are dramatic changes underway that threaten to end Social Security as we know it — yet almost no one has even heard of it.

The plan is called Vision 2025, and every working American has a stake in it.

To explain the significance of what’s going on, let me paint a picture. Say you’re the CEO of a major corporation doing $850 billion in business annually out of 1,200 locations across the country. More than 43 million clients walked through your doors in the past year, seeking one-on-one appointments with your experienced customer service representatives on matters affecting their financial security.

But there’s a storm brewing. You’ve lost 12 percent of your employees in just the past three years, and another third of the workforce is projected to retire in the next decade. Customer demand is breaking records, yet failure to fill vacancies means longer waits for appointments. Customers are waiting three times longer than last year for assistance on your 1-800 phone line, while the website that was set up to take pressure off your field offices can’t meet demand either.

So what do you do? If you’re the head of the Social Security Administration, you lay out a plan to close most of your 1,200 field offices, not replace the 30,000 employees about to walk out the door, and force your customers to conduct nearly all of their business using a phone line and website that already are overwhelmed.

This is the real-life scenario playing out at SSA right now, and the ramifications of decisions made today will affect every working man and woman in this country for generations.

This fall, SSA will unveil its long-range strategic plan for the next 10 years, the so-called Vision 2025 plan. A draft of the plan, being developed for SSA by the National Academy of Public Administration, is frightening:

  • The bulk of SSA’s field offices would be shut down, leaving the agency with a “significantly smaller and more virtual workforce.”
  • Many of the employees left behind would be “generalists” who lack the technical skills and expertise to address benefits questions.
  • Customers could reach an actual claims representative only in “very limited circumstances,” either through in-person visits, phone calls, online chats or video conferences. In the vast majority of cases, the only way to interact with SSA would be through “online self-service delivery.”

Self-service checkout may work at grocery stores, but it’s not the right model for an agency tasked with determining complex retirement and disability benefits for tens of millions of Americans each year. Do they really expect grandpa to hop on his iPad Mini to apply for benefits and get all his questions answered?

Most of the individuals contacting SSA for help are elderly, disabled or indigent. Many others are active seniors who simply are overwhelmed by the complicated maze of laws, regulations and policies pertaining to retirement benefits. They deserve and expect face-to-face interaction with skilled employees who can ensure they receive all the benefits they are owed.

Unfortunately, SSA seems determined to cannibalize itself. In addition to leaving thousands of positions vacant, management already has shuttered 80 field offices and dramatically reduced hours at remaining offices — even before its strategic plan is finalized.

As the representative for the bulk of SSA’s workforce, our union is working hard to save Social Security for current and future generations. This week, we plan to submit testimony at a congressional hearing on SSA’s plan to dismantle the program. AFGE will not let it die without a fight.

I urge you to join the discussion about a program that all of us will ultimately depend on. Your retirement security is at stake.

( By J. David Cox Sr., National President of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 670,000 federal and D.C. government employees nationwide, including more than 28,000 SSA field office employees across the country

Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Social Security’s 79 th Birthday Celebration Marred By Massive Problems

Social Security Has No reason To Celebrate Its 79th Birthday, Massive Problems Are Rampant

SSA Service Cuts, Computer

Problems Plague

Social Security’s 79th Birthday.

Recent reports slam the Social Security Administration (SSA) for (1) reduction in staff, (2) cutting operating hours and (3) computer systems that do not work.
The SSA should have reason to celebrate. After all, August 14, 2014, marked its 79th Birthday, the day when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, which ushered in the landmark entitlement program.
However, the SSA’s birthday was less than cheerful, coming on the heels of an audit that criticized the SSA for deciding to cut staffing and reduce its service hours. At the same time, the SSA learned that its new multimillion-dollar computer system may very well have turned out to be an expensive failure.
According to the audit produced by the SSA’s own Inspector General’s (IG)  Office, “overall service has suffered” because of the agency’s 2011 decision to trim its staff by nearly 11,000 employees and reduce its weekly field office hours from 35 to 27. The audit found that the end results of the agency’s cutbacks were felt as soon as fiscal year 2013, when “the public waited longer for a decision on their disability claim, to talk to a representative on the National 800-Number and to schedule an appointment” at a field office.
The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits takes a significant amount of time and is very complex. The Inspector General’s findings represent unwelcome news for disabled Americans who need a speedy resolution of their claims.
Compounding the critical assessment from the Inspector General’s Office, an internal report has concluded that the SSA’s new $300 million computer system, which was designed to handle its disability claims, does not work.
The agency laid the groundwork for the new system in 2008 when its aging computers were swamped by disability claims. But the recent report found that delays and mismanagement still plague the new system. And SSA officials have not been able to answer queries on when the new system will be up and running.
The Social Security Administration may have thought that its new computer system could make up for its decision to cut back service, but that assumption was dependent on the system actually working. Instead, already long wait times for the processing of disability claims are getting even longer.

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Master Dennis Kim, USTigers’ Secret Weapon

 

Champions are made, not born. It takes a family to produce a potential champion; and an old Chinese Proverb says that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When Brandon Ivey, Christian Yun, and Josh Liu and other champions from the USTigers Taekwondo School were ready, the master teacher appeared. That teacher is Master Dennis Kim from the USTigers World Taekwondo Federation School of Taekwondo, Haymarket, VA. Master Dennis is also an Olympic coach to the USA International Taekwondo Olympic Team.

 

 

(Master Dennis Kim with the 2013 Washington,DC Sparring Champion’s Trophy)

 

 

He has been recognized by the Governor of the State of Virginia for his contributions to the State of Virginia.

 

 

 

 

Master Dennis was appointed an advisory member of theWorld Taekwondo Federation Headquarters at Kukkiwon in Seoul, Korea.

 

 

 

 

 

 Josh Liu has been a member of the USA Taekwondo Cadet National Team multiple times. Most recently, he represented USA at teh Cadet World Taekwondo Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan in July, 2014.

http://cgacriticalthinkers.blogspot.com/2014/04/brandon-ivey-has-reclaimed-world.html
On March 23, 2014 Brando Ivey represented the USA in the World WTF Taekwondo Championship Tournament in Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China. He defeated FIVE heavy weight black belt fighters from various countries around the World. It was a single elimination tournament and Brandon went undefeated.

(Master Dennis Kim, above far right, with his twin brother Master Alex Kim, left foreground, and  Brandon Ivey, 2014 Junior World Heavyweight Taekwondo Black Belt Champion.)

 

Brandon Ivey has studied the Taekwondo art since he was 7, learning “the way of the fist and the foot” and its tenets of discipline and respect from Master Dennis Kim.

“He wants to win so bad, he’s willing to go that extra mile to make it happen,” said Kim, owner of the US Tigers school and a coach for USA Taekwondo, the sport’s governing body in this country. “His desire to win is greater than anyone else I’ve ever trained.”

http://www.loudountimes.com/sports/article/the_path_to_the_top_ivey_brings_world_junior_taekwondo_championship_home

A Blogger commented that the USTigers’ website doesn’t do them justice. Current students of USTigers have the privilege of being steeped in raw potential: all instructors at USTigers are Kukkiwon-certified fourth-degree black belts or higher, and have competed at national or international levels in Taekwondo, either in Poomsae (forms) or competition sparring. Regular classes over the past four weeks have been taught by Masters Charlie and Kyle, both friendly and vibrant characters who clearly possess skill enough to teach even higher-degree black belts and an earnestness to teach that makes even the newest beginner feel welcome. USTigers also apparently has very close ties to Phoenix Taekwondo, another local dojang, and Phoenix’s excellent instructors (namely Masters Won and Jeong) have visited to teach classes. Upon simple conversation with Master Dennis Kim, the proprietor of USTigers, it is clear that he is much more concerned with instilling the values and skills of Taekwondo in his students than he is with extracting their pocketbooks. The system of payment works much more similarly to a gym than to other dojang that the reviewer has visited: students pay once a month and are allowed to attend as often or as little as they like, with there being a class to attend nearly every day of the week. However, the belt-testing system occurs and is paid for separately, and not attending classes will probably have an effect on the length of time it takes to be allowed to escalate in belt level. Finally, USTigers has the gamut of competitive teams: a sparring team (the S.E.T or Sparring Elite Team), a Poomsae team, and a Demonstration team. Practices and qualification for these teams are both extremely rigorous, and has as a result produced several outstanding members. The S.E.T, especially, has seen a two-time United States Junior Olympic team member, as well as a Virginia State Champion in Taekwondo; Master Dennis is, himself, an assistant coach on the United States National Team for Taekwondo. 

https://plus.google.com/110303337633094796208/about

 

 As a 10-year-old, Christian Yun envisioned big plans for himself in the Taekwondo realm—he craved a spot on the U.S. Junior National Taekwondo Team. It was a five-year process, but Christian finally achieved that goal.

From the beginning, Christian has trained with Master Dennis Kim, owner of USTigers Taekwondo, for about 12 hours per week Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The student/coach relationship has lasted eight years and is ongoing.

Originally, Kim’s business was based in Ashburn. He later opened another location in Gainesville and operated both schools until 2010, when he handed over the Ashburn location, which is now called Phoenix Taekwondo. He now solely works out of the Gainesville location, which is still titled USTigers.

Christian’s sessions with Kim resemble those of CrossFit, a core strength and conditioning program. “My belief is that if you don’t have the body for it, you just won’t succeed, so we work on their body a lot,” Kim said, noting his students don’t spend the majority of their workouts kicking and punching, despite stereotypes.

The vigorous training has obviously been worth it, as Christian has competed on the regional, state and, of course, national level.

 http://www.leesburgtoday.com/news/article_e18824b4-d1e9-11e1-a20d-0019bb2963f4.html?TNNoMobile

 

 

Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DHS Employees May Be Incompetent

DHS Civil Servants May Be Incompetent

One of the major reasons the Department of Homeland Security may be doomed is because the rank and file civil employees may be incompetent for the jobs they are trying to perform. The Senior Executive Staff was filled by professional job-hoppers from other agencies looking for a raise in pay and another career enhancing paragraph on their resume’ or curriculum vitae. Today the DHS appears to be a bloated  and mismanaged bureaucracy of marginally qualified civil servants.
http://voices.yahoo.com/why-believe-department-homeland-security-12669563.html?cat=9
How were the top DHS positions filled? It was Ruling Class cronyism, favoritism, and nepotism. And in a few isolated cases, it may have been some affirmative action.
In the case of  Carmen H. Walker, Deputy Officer for EEO Programs, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, it may have been a combination of all four, because she certainly was not qualified to render the decisions that she made. The most egregious was in the Case of Cadet Webster Smith.
http://cgachasehall.blogspot.com/2011/04/american-tragedt-webster-smith-case-is.html
It took a long time for the Dept Homeland Security, Office of Civil Rights to make a decision on the Webster Smith Discrimination Complaint. Webster Smith received a fatal blow from Ms Carmen Walker, the Deputy Officer for EEO Programs in the Department of Homeland Security. That decision was the death knell for Cadet Smith in his fight to get justice from the Coast Guard Academy and the Coast Guard?

Carmen H. Walker, Deputy Officer for EEO Programs, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, in her 20 August 2007 letter said that because Webster Smith was court-martialed, he could not have been discriminated against, as a matter of law. Well, that was just flat out patently wrong. A court-martial does not bar a civil rights action. The court-martial was just one act in a chain of events, each of which constituted racial discrimination. The same set of facts could have given rise to actionable relief in different arenas. The several discriminatory actions taken against Webster Smith before he was even charged under the UCMJ were completely separate and distinct from any possible legal errors that were committed during the course of the court-martial.
Only the legal and procedural errors committed by the prosecution at trial were the subject of the appeal to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. The decision by Ms Walker was the dumbest decision I had ever seen, and the shortest. There was more meat on the shadow of the chicken that died of starvation than in her Report. There were no Findings of Fact. There were no Conclusions. There was no Rationale, or any reasoning whatsoever. There was nothing in the Final Report to show how she had arrived at her decision. No comparisons are made with any other cases or sets of facts.The Report and her decision simply defied reason and logic.

H. Jerry Jones, the Coast Guard’s director of the Office of Civil Rights in Washington D.C., authorized an inquiry Dec. 7, 2006  into whether former cadet first class Webster Smith was treated differently during the investigation into his case than others who had committed similar offenses.
After reviewing Smith’s complaint, Jones dismissed 16 separate claims but authorized an investigation into the alleged inequity of treatment, headquarters spokesman Commander Jeff Carter said Dec. 15.
The Coast Guard hired JDG Associates Inc., a San Antonio-based consultant company that specializes in equal opportunity and civil rights issues, to examine the complaint, Carter said.
Carter explained that the Coast Guard does not maintain a large Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff and needed to hire the firm to ensure fairness.

Consistent with 29CFR 1614.107(b) when an agency dismisses some but not all of the claims in a complaint, the dismissed claims will not be investigated and the dismissal is not immediately appealable. The Department of Homeland Security was supposed to review them together with the Report of Investigation when it prepared the Final Agency Decision (FAD) on the accepted claims. It does not appear that Ms Walker did anything remotely comparable to that. She did not appear to have followed the letter or the spirit of the Regulation, 29CFR 1614.107(b).

Webster Smith has the right to request reconsideration of the FAD, including the dismissal determination if it had been sustained. It appears that Ms. Walker did that by default. Even though the dismissed claims were not processed as discreet and separate claims, the information regarding the dismissed claims were required to be used as evidence during the investigation of the accepted claim. Ms. Walker certainly could not have done that.
However, it is hard to tell just what Ms Walker did, if anything. She gave very few clues as to what she did, if she did anything. She could have flipped a coin, or rolled the dice for all we know. The FAD is brief and uninformative. It gives very little insight into the inner workings and hidden mechanisms of her mind.
Ms Carmen Walker was faced with a living room full of pink elephants. She chose to ignore all of them. She ignored what would have been obvious to even a child, and instead she grasped at two invisible straws. She chose to hang her hat on a technicality that has proven to be a gross embarrassment to her and the Department of Homeland Security.

It looked like Ms Walker had not looked at the complaint since it first had arrived on her desk. She must have noticed that the First Anniversary of the filing of the complaint was fast approaching. On 5 September, it would have been one year since the complaint had been filed. Ms Walker was required by Agency Regulations to provide Webster Smith with a copy of the investigative file, to notify him in writing that he had a right to request a hearing and a decision from an administrative law judge (ALJ) or to request an immediate final decision from the agency (29 CFR 1614.110). Ms Walker’s Final Decision looked like nothing more than a half-hearted attempt to avoid letting the 360 day period run out without taking the required Agency action.

Oscar Wilde said that the easiest way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Ms Walker obviously believed the easiest way to get rid of a complaint was to simply say that it did not state a claim for which relief could be granted.

In her decision no evidence was evaluated. Statements were taken by the Investigating Officer, but no Facts were deduced. There were two apparently implied facts: One, that Webster Smith had been in the military; and, Two, that he had been court-martialed. From those two apparently implied facts, Ms Walker concludes that Webster Smith’s Discrimination Complaint failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

If Webster Smith had been trying to overturn his court-martial conviction by filing a civil rights complaint, then he would not have filed an appeal to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. That is a separate action. It is designed to remedy the errors committed during and after the court-martial conviction.

The Court of Criminal Appeals has no jurisdiction to render a finding concerning whether Webster Smith was discriminated against when he was forcefully removed from Chase Hall at midnight in December 2005 by Coast Guard Intelligence, or when he was prevented from attending class, or when he was made to work on the boat docks in June 2006, or when he was forbidden to speak to any other classmates or cadets, or when he was forbidden to go within 100 yards of Chase Hall. Moreover, it was discrimination when a press release was distributed to the media with his photograph calling him a sexual predator and saying that his presence created an intimidating environment in Chase Hall. All of these prohibited actions occurred long before a charge sheet was drawn up, and well before a court-martial was convened and most certainly before a verdict was rendered. On these acts alone Webster Smith was discriminated against because of his race. These all occurred long before the court-martial and the other related acts occurred.

http://www.uscg.mil/Legal/cca/Court_of_Criminal_Appeals.asp
The Court of Military Review is a military forum and can only give a military remedy. It has no jurisdiction to give relief in the administrative, employment area.  The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals, established under Article 66, UCMJ, by the Judge Advocate General is composed of the Chief Judge and not less than two additional appellate military judges. The judges may be commissioned officers or civilians. The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals is currently composed of six appellate judges organized in panels of three for consideration of referred cases. All but the Chief Judge have other primary duties, so that their service on the Court constitutes a collateral duty. In general, the Court reviews and acts on the records by affirming, reversing, or modifying in part the findings or sentence in each case of trial by court-martial in which the sentence, as approved, extends to death; dismissal of a commissioned officer or cadet; dishonorable discharge; bad conduct discharge; or confinement of one year or more. The Court also reviews other courts-martial with lesser sentences if the Judge Advocate General so directs. Also reviewed by the Court are petitions for extraordinary writs, petitions for new trial which have been referred to the Court, and appeals by the United States under Article 62, UCMJ.
That is why there is a civil rights complaint procedure. It is designed to address those areas where one has been treated differently than others based on his race, or sex.
In a perfect world, Ms Carmen H. Walker’s actions alone would have done irreparable harm to an innocent man, but this is not a perfect world; and, Ms Walker may have had her strings pulled by others. Her actions and decisions had a snowball effect.


The Day newspaper in an article written by Jennifer Grogan on 9/11/2007 reported that “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ruled that Webster Smith was not discriminated against on the basis of his race when he was court-martialed for sexual assault last summer.” That was not true, nor was it correct.

She reported that “The Smiths declined to comment.” That was true; however, after the Smiths saw what she had written, they had plenty of comments. Mainly, they commented that Ms Grogan’s article was not correct. And they were right. The Day was forced to print a correction on 9/12/2207. As one might expect, the CORRECTION was not as conspicuous, nor as easy to locate as the first blatantly erroneous article. The damage had been done. As Webster Smith’s mother, Belinda, said”After the article has gone nationwide with the Associated Press, they quietly corrected the article but the damage was done.”
The Day, unlike the Navy Times, printed an article short on facts, but long on quotes from the people who had slandered Webster Smith, and who were trying to save face. The same people who tried to label Webster Smith as a sexual predator and released his private cadet photograph to the news media to be beamed around the world.
At the Coast Guard Academy,” Chief Warrant Officer David M. French, an Academy spokesman, on Monday, 10 September, was quoted as saying “We feel the Department of Homeland Security’s final decision on the civil rights complaint from Webster Smith validates the Coast Guard Academy’s actions in this matter as appropriate.”

The CORRECTION buried in the B Section of The Day simply said “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied a discrimination claim filed by Webster Smith, a black man expelled from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy following his court-martial for sexual assault. The department ruled that the complaint was not filed in the appropriate forum.”

To deny a complaint and then to give 30 days for one to appeal the denial, is a long ways from saying there was no discrimination. There has not yet been a decision on the ultimate issue of whether Webster Smith was a victim of racial discrimination. Here it is eight years later and justice has not been done in the Webster Smith Case. If a few of the people in the Department of Homeland Security had been marginally qualified, or had simply performed their jobs properly, this might have ended differently. As it is, the Case of Webster Smith remains An American Tragedy.

http://cgachasehall.blogspot.com/2011/04/american-tragedt-webster-smith-case-is.html
Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Security Administration Pays Lip Service To Disabled Veterans

Social Security launches new expedited disability process for veterans

Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the launch of a new disability process to expedite disability claims filed by veterans with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100% Permanent & Total (P&T). Under the new process, Social Security will treat these veterans’ applications as high priority and issue expedited decisions, similar to the way the agency currently handles disability claims from Wounded Warriors.

“We have reached another milestone for those who have sacrificed so much for our country and this process ensures they will get the benefits they need quickly,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “While we can never fully repay them for their sacrifices, we can be sure we provide them with the quality of service that they deserve. This initiative is truly a lifeline for those who need it most.”

“No one wants to put America’s veterans through a bureaucratic runaround,” said Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes, a leading proponent for increasing assistance to veterans. “As the baby boomer generation ages and more veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need care, this common sense change will help reduce backlogs and cut through unnecessary red tape so that our most disabled veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned.”

In order to receive the expedited service, veterans must tell Social Security they have a VA disability compensation rating of 100% P&T and show proof of their disability rating with their VA Notification Letter.

The VA rating only expedites Social Security disability claims processing and does not guarantee an approval for Social Security disability benefits. These veterans must still meet the strict eligibility requirements for a disability allowance.

The Acting Commissioner is doing nothing more than giving lip service to disabled veterans in this announcement. This is an empty promise. It is a carrot on a stick. It is a distinction without a difference. This is just a lot of hot air. This will not reduce backlogs and cut through unnecessary red tape. It will have little or no influence on the 1500 Social Security Administration  Administrative Law Judges, many of whom are not veterans and have no sympathy for the disabled veterans. In almost 20 years as a SSA ALJ I never heard more than one or two express anything more than contempt for the military and veterans. When Viet Nam disabled veterans came in for disability hearings they were not given any compassionate consideration. There are a lot of draft dodgers from the 1960s in the ALJ corps. A lot more women are coming into the ALJ corps; many are anti-military.

The requirements for getting benefits have not changed. In order to receive the expedited service, veterans must tell Social Security they have a VA disability compensation rating of 100% P&T and show proof of their disability rating with their VA Notification Letter. It is very difficult for a veteran to get a 100% Permanent and Total Rating. The Acting Commissioner was honest enough to say that “The VA rating only expedites Social Security disability claims processing and does not guarantee an approval for Social Security disability benefits. These veterans must still meet the strict eligibility requirements for a disability allowance.”

Putting the best face possible on this, what the Acting Commissioner has done is promise to provide the the wounded warriors with the quality of service that they deserve. BUT, they should have been getting that all along. That would have been the professional thing to do. So, I ask you, what has changed?

www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability-pt.htm

For information about this service, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability-pt.htm.

 

For more about Social Security’s handling of Wounded Warrior’s disability claims, please visit

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors.www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors.

Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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