Social Security Benefits

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.
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.
(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

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
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.

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: [Update: the raw, unedited data can be found here in the archives for 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)

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



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.

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

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.
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.”

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.


 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.



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.
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.
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.
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.
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?

For information about this service, please visit


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

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

It Is Getting Harder To Get Social Security Benefits. The Hearing Backlog Is Growing again.

Social Security Disability Hearing Backlog Growing Again

 Number of people waiting in the hearing backlog approaches 1 million.

If your application was denied and you must appeal your SSDI benefits claim, it’s important to avoid waiting to file and get help.  The Back Log of people waiting to attend a hearing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is growing closer to 1 million.

As of December 2013, there were 903,720 people who had filed an appeal and were waiting for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). , according to  data released by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

This is a nearly 7 percent increase from 847,984 hearings pending at the end of fiscal year 2013, and a 17 percent increase from 771,318 hearings pending in FY 2011.

As the waiting time grows longer, more and more people are enduring significant financial hardship to receive SSDI benefits through a program they paid into through FICA taxes while they were working.

The first-quarter FY 2014 data also shows that the time it takes to get a Hearing has increased to 393 days from 382 days in FY 2013.

Click here to see a state-by-state ranking of pending hearings, based on an analysis of SSA data.


The growing Social Security disability Backlog illustrates the challenges of meeting the SSA’s goals outlined in its FY 2008-13 Agency Strategic Plan.

Social Security had planned to reduce the hearing Backlog to 466,000 claims and the average processing time to 270 days, but a number of factors have worked against this.

Restricted funding has led Social Security to cut the hours its Hearing Offices are open to the public. In addition, the average wait time for calls going to the SSA’s national 800-number have increased. Since September 2010, the SSA has lost more than 7,400 employees from its workforce, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

At the same time that waiting times are growing to get a Hearing, it’s becoming much more difficult to receive SSDI benefits.

For example, the SSA reported that 89,332 people were granted benefits in December 2012. A year later, that number was reduced to 61,983 in December 2013, a 30 percent decline.

SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program that provides monthly benefits to individuals who are under full retirement age (65-67) and who can no longer work because of a severe, long-term or terminal disability. FICA payroll taxes paid by workers and their employers fund the program, which is administered by the SSA.

You Need Help When Filing An SSDI Appeal

Things To Consider When Applying for SSDI benefits.

1.    Consult An Attorney. Those who applied for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits without a representative have the opportunity to get help with a disability appeal. At the hearing level of the SSDI program, nearly eight in 10 applicants have a representative.

2.    Appeal Every Thing. When people apply for SSDI and are denied benefits, they may decide to give up on their application. It’s important to pursue a disability appeal because delaying or missing important dates can hurt someone’s claim. For instance, those who decide to wait and apply later may wait too long and become uninsured. The SSA requires individuals to be fully and currently insured in order to receive SSDI benefits. Generally, this means having a work history of five out of the last 10 years—and waiting too long could mean missing this window.

3.    Provide documentation and details. It may take the SSA two years or longer to review an SSDI claim through the appeals process, which points to the importance of good documentation. Continue to work closely with your doctors to document updates, new tests and test result. It’s also important to correct any errors, explain changes and provide more detail with your SSDI appeal.

More than 168,000 people applied for SSDI benefits in December 2013 and entered the growing line for review of their disability insurance claims.

It is important for new SSDI applicants to realize they need expert help with their application. That expertise and attention to your claim can result in benefits as early as your initial application. That means avoiding disability appeals altogether.


Find more information about SSDI disability appeal see


(Statistics Source: ALLSUP) ABOUT ALLSUP :

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Allsup professionals deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. Founded in 1984, the company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, go to or visit Allsup on Facebook at


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

Big Fraud In The Big Apple

                                                                          (There are worms in the Big Apple.)

The Big Apple does everything in a big way. The Great White Way leads the world in live stage entertainment on and off  Broadway. The World Champion New York Yankees and the New York Knicks set the pace for world class sports entertainment. The New York Times, was the Queen of the Tabloids. The Wall Street Journal is the standard for world financial reporting.

New Yorkers like to do things in a big way; but, when it came to defrauding the Social Security Disability Program,  New York’s Police and Firemen have out-done themselves.

New York tabloids are having a field day with the news that dozens of ex-cops have been charged with scamming as much as $400 million in Social Security disability benefits. The bigger outrage is that this grand taxpayer theft went undetected for over two decades (25 years) and is merely part of the national scandal that the disability program has become.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. this week charged 102 retirees, including 80 former New York police officers and firefighters, with making phony disability claims since as far back as 1988 to obtain Social Security benefits and tax-free pensions equalling up to 75% of their pay.

About half of the cheats attributed their “disabilities” to the World Trade Center disaster on  9/11, even if they never even worked at Ground Zero. 

Heading the alleged racket were 64-year-old retired cop Joseph Esposito and 61-year-old detectives’ union consultant John Minerva. They recruited and then directed disability applicants to Raymond Lavallee, an 83-year-old former Nassau County prosecutor, and 89-year-old Thomas Hale who assists disability applicants. They are alleged to have acted much like college counselors, except their jobs were to make their clients look inept.

The group’s suspected ringleaders — retired officer Joseph Esposito, 64; detectives’ union disability consultant John Minerva, 61; lawyer and former FBI agent and suburban prosecutor Raymond Lavallee, 83; and benefits consultant Thomas Hale, 89. Messrs. Hale and Esposito allegedly coached applicants to feign psychiatric impairments by failing memory tests, dressing shabbily, and describing symptoms with statements such as “My [family member] is always after me about my grooming.” Many said they couldn’t leave the house except for short walks.

They claimed all this even as they have active lives and second careers. One ex-cop who claimed to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) posted a YouTube video of himself teaching karate. Was he trying to make the cut for “America’s Dumbest Cops”?

{(Glenn Liebermann, shown above, received $175,758.40 in benefits. (Image source: NY Manhattan District attorneys Office)}

{(Richard Cosintino, shown above, is seen on a boat sword fishing. He received $207,639.70 in payments. (Image Source: NY Manhattan District attorneys Office.)}

Online photographs showed others riding motorcycles and jet skis, which we doubt passes as physical therapy.

The four ringleaders allegedly charged a flat fee that ranged from $20,000 to $50,000 per applicant. Mr. Lavallee also received $6,000 per applicant in attorney’s fees from the Social Security Administration.  He must really be enjoying his Golden Years.

Prosecutors say two doctors have also been arrested for allegedly agreeing to falsify claims in return for a cut of the disability benefits.

Mr. Vance says the 102 indicted retirees collected on average $210,000 in benefits.

Since most are still in their 40s or early 50s, each could have extracted hundreds of thousands more had the racket continued. One alleged fraudster is only 32 years old. Mr. Vance says as many as 1,000 people may have been involved in the scheme, and the investigation is continuing.

What’s remarkable about all this is that it’s merely an extreme example of what has been happening across the country. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs issued an amazing report last October describing how a Kentucky-based disability law firm colluded with a Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) David Daugherty to abuse the program. The report says that disability attorney Eric Conn employed attractive women to recruit applicants and hired doctors with records of ethical problems to falsify medical opinions.

He then steered his clients’ applications to ALJ David Daugherty. Administrative law judges re-evaluate de novo applications that have been rejected. Some like Judge Daugherty have a reputation for being “intellectually lazy,” to quote his professional colleagues. Judge Daugherty approved benefits in more than 99% of cases compared to a program-wide average of 62%, which is dubious enough. Between 2005 and 2011, he awarded an estimated $2.5 billion in lifetime benefits—while rarely being in the office.

Two women who worked in the SSA’s West Virginia office have filed a civil suit against Mr. Conn and Judge Daugherty. Mr. Conn responded in a statement that “it is noteworthy that the U.S. government studied the lawsuit for a year and a half and decided not to join it or get involved” and that “I have always tried to represent my clients in the best and most appropriate way possible, within all the laws and rules.” Neither man would answer questions at a Senate hearing in October 2013.

The gist of the Senate report is that the SSA’s  disability program (SSDI) has vague criteria for qualifying and lacks even the barest oversight, which makes it ripe for abuse. ALJs decide cases independently and are virtually immune to disciplinary action. Politicians enable the fraudsters by denouncing anyone who proposes a fix as an enemy of the disabled.

The truth is that opponents of reform are the ones hurting the truly disabled. The charts pictured above show how disability claims have exploded—to 8.9 million last year from 5.9 million in 2003 and 2.7 million in 1985. Not coincidentally, that is the year Congress relaxed eligibility standards to make it easier for people reporting pain, discomfort and mental illness to qualify for benefits. Like the jet-skiers in New York.

The second chart shows that all of these claims are bleeding the Social Security disability trust fund, which paid out $137 billion in benefits in 2012 or nearly twice as much as a decade ago. Without reform, the fund is on track to go broke in 2016, triggering either a 20% cut in benefits for all recipients or one more taxpayer bailout.

You’d think that fixing this mess would be a Washington priority, but Mr. Coburn and a few others are voices in the wilderness. Instead the country is treated to a political game over extended jobless benefits that might even be affordable if the Obama Administration cared a whit about stopping disability fraud. The polls say public trust in government is falling to new lows, but judging by the open secret of disability insurance scams it isn’t nearly low enough. (WSJ, Opinion, p.A12, 10 Jan 2014)


NYPD, FDNY members cashed in on bogus 9/11 woes as part of massive $400M Social Security fraud: prosecutor

Dozens of former cops and firefighters claiming 9/11 trauma were among the 106 indicted for gaming the Social Security disability system to take early retirement and leech off the taxpayers, authorities said.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Photo from Facebook page of Glenn Lieberman, who is accused of participating in a Social Security disability scam to the tune of $175,758.40 according to the Manhattan DA’s office.

They spat on the memory of the real victims of 9/11.

Dozens of former city cops and firefighters used the 2001 terror attacks as an excuse to fund carefree lifestyles on the taxpayer’s dime, authorities said Tuesday.

The former NYPD and FDNY members — who claimed to have suffered stress-related woes from the World Trade Center attacks — were among 106 people indicted for a longstanding Social Security disability scam, officials said.

A former Brooklyn cop, Glenn Lieberman, 44, became the unwitting poster boy for the sprawling ripoff ring, which includes 71 other retired city cops, eight former firefighters and five ex-correction employees.

Lieberman, accused of being part of the crooked crew that soaked taxpayers for $21.5 million, showed his contempt in an undated photo released by prosecutors with a sick grin and two extended middle fingers.

The alleged ringleaders of the disability scam that dated back to 1988.

Joe Marino; Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News

The alleged ringleaders of the disability scam that dated back to 1988.

He and the former cops and firefighters were coached by ringleaders to act dysfunctional and steered to shady doctors who helped green-light disability payments of anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 a year, the 205-count indictment charges.


“I can only express my disgust at the actions of the individuals involved in this scheme,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

He said he was particularly chagrined that 72 former members of the NYPD “disgraced themselves, embarrassed their families.”

“The idea that many of them chose the events of 9/11 to claim as the bases for this disability brings further dishonor to themselves,” Bratton added.

NYPD retiree Richard Cosentino felt good enough for marlin fishing in Costa Rica.

NYPD retiree Richard Cosentino felt good enough for marlin fishing in Costa Rica.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. suggested there might be additional indictments beyond those announced Tuesday by the time they wrap up the probe. The scammers operated from January 1988 until last month, and some 1,000 people filed fraudulent claims for as much as $400 million, Vance said.

The suspects flaunted their money and carefree lifestyle on social media, apparently never dreaming they would be caught.

“The brazenness is shocking,” said Vance.


Take Lieberman, an ex-Brooklyn South Gangs officer who quit the force in 2006 after 19 years on the job and collected $175,758.40 in disability payments based on a bogus claim of having a psychiatric disorder, prosecutors charged.

Surveillance photo shows Darrin Lamantia, a cop who retired on a disability claim, playing basketball.

Surveillance photo shows Darrin Lamantia, a cop who retired on a disability claim, playing basketball.

But the ex-cop, who now lives in Palm Beach, Fla., doesn’t look like a tortured soul as he sits on a Jet-Ski and flips a pair of birds in the photo.

Lieberman, who is charged with second-degree grand larceny and criminal solicitation, could not be reached for comment. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

But he was not the only suspect who lived the good life thanks to the fraudulent payments, officials said.

Vincent Lamantia, 43, a retired NYPD officer, used the $150,000 in disability money he collected between May 2010 and June 2013 to “fund his lifestyle,” Assistant District Attorney Bryan Serino said.

“He bragged about what he was doing in a series of YouTube videos,” Serino added.

Workers sift through the pile of rubble at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terror attacks.


Workers sift through the pile of rubble at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terror attacks.


Richard Cosentino, a 49-year-old retired NYPD officer who now lives in New Hampshire, posted a photo of himself on Facebook with a massive marlin he caught.

“It was an awesome day off the coast of Costa Rica,” he wrote on Sept. 11, 2012, while many New Yorkers were marking the anniversary of the terror attacks.

Prosecutors say Cosentino stole nearly $208,000 between May 2008 and June 2013. He appears happy and functional in his picture.

Louis (Shidoshi) Hurtado, a 60-year-old former NYPD officer, has collected a whopping $470,395.20 since June 1989.

This flow chart provided by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office shows the layers of the scam and the alleged ringleaders.

This flow chart provided by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office shows the layers of the scam and the alleged ringleaders.

But being diagnosed with psychiatric problems didn’t stop him from running his own mixed martial arts school outside Tampa and boasting on its website about serving as a “personal bodyguard” to stars including Sean Connery and James Caan.

Prosecutors said the four ringleaders of the scheme should have known better.


Raymond Lavallee, 83, of Massapequa, L.I., accused of being the brains of the operation, is a former FBI agent who once ran the rackets bureau at the Nassau County DA’s office.

Thomas Hale, 89, of Bellmore, L.I., who allegedly served as Lavallee’s right-hand man, is a pension consultant.

Civilian worker Joseph Morrone (center) helps dish cannolis at the San Gennaro festival.

Civilian worker Joseph Morrone (center) helps dish cannolis at the San Gennaro festival.

Joseph Esposito, 64, of Valley Stream, L.I., a retired New York police officer, allegedly recruited many of the crooked cops and firefighters.

And John Minerva, 61, of Malverne, L.I., also allegedly steered people into the scam. He has been suspended from the Detectives Endowment Association.

The four alleged ringleaders are charged with first- and second-degree grand larceny and attempted second-degree grand larceny. Each faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Esposito said nothing when he turned himself in earlier Tuesday.


John Stefanowski, an ex-cop, loves golf.

John Stefanowski, an ex-cop, loves golf.

“While these are serious allegations, we were aware that they were coming,” his lawyer, Brian Griffin, said. “We did not avoid them.”

The lawyers for the other accused ringleaders protested their clients’ innocence.

Minerva’s lawyer, Glenn Hardy, said: “My client’s involvement in this scheme was minimal at best.”

Joseph Conway, who represents Hale, said his client was a “decorated World War II veteran.”

“For the last 30 years, he’s run a legitimate consulting company,” Conway said. “He vehemently denies any wrongdoing.”

John Famularo, an ex-Finest and motorcycle enthusiast, is accused of taking more than $340,000 in the scam.

John Famularo, an ex-Finest and motorcycle enthusiast, is accused of taking more than $340,000 in the scam.

Lavallee’s lawyer, Raymond Perini, said his client is a Korean War vet and former G-man who investigated organized crime in New York and Miami.


“He’s denied each and every allegation,” Perini said.

In an 11-page bail letter addressed to Justice Daniel Fitzgerald, prosecutors said cops seeking to claim a disability would seek out Esposito or Minerva, who would then steer them to Hale and Lavallee.

But it was Esposito who “coached” the applicants on what to say to doctors and urged them to “pretend” to have “panic attacks.”

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said he can only express his disgust over Social Security scheme.


NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said he can only express his disgust over Social Security scheme.

“You’re gonna tell ’em, ‘I don’t sleep well at night,’ ” Esposito was caught on a wiretap telling one defendant, Jacqueline Powell. “I’m up three, four times.”

Esposito and the other ringleaders got a kickback for every patient diagnosed with a stress-related illness, prosecutors charged. So did at least two doctors who were part of the scam.

None of the doctors involved has been named or indicted but they could face charges at a later date, officials said.

The DA’s office took on the probe after a Social Security official noticed a series of applications that all seem to be written with the same hand and that all had similar diagnoses.

The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau joined the probe and uncovered the retired officers allegedly participating in the ripoff.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said the union doesn’t “condone anyone filing false claims.”

With Larry McShane

Read more:

During the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on Thursday January 16th, Rep. Tim Griffin (R- Ark.) raised questions about the disability program’s efficiency and accuracy in the wake of recent high-profile fraud cases.

Social Security Administration Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll and SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin testified before the subcommittee about the SSA’s ability to root out fraud and handle employees who are implicated in a scheme.

Colvin testified that 99 percent of disability payments are made correctly. Griffin, however, noted recent disability schemes in New York, Puerto Rico and West Virginia and challenged the accuracy of Colvin’s claim.

That talking point, Griffin said, “needs to be erased” because the nature of fraud makes it impossible to know how rampant abuse of Social Security disability has become.

Griffin also questioned the SSA’s ability to reprimand and fire SSA employees who are investigated or implicated in disability schemes.

“…We all know that in order to fire someone, they do not have to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law applying (the) beyond a reasonable doubt standard,” Griffin said. “That’s not the standard to fire people.”

O’Carroll said the preference is to place an employee on leave without pay while investigating criminal activities; however, sometimes employees are left in place and monitored in an effort to identify co-conspirators.

Ms. Colvin is running the agency until the White House nominates a commissioner, and the White House has not signaled when it might move on the vacancy.

Another 28 former NYPD officers and firefighters arrested in $400million disability benefits scheme

  • Dozens more arrested in social security disability scam totaled $400million
  • Of those arrested today, 16 were retired NYPD officers, four were ex-firefighters, one worked for both NYPD and FDNY among others
  • Comes after more than 100 other former New York police officers and firefighters were arrested in January
  • Were ‘coached’ on how to appear to be suffering from PTSD and other physical and psychological conditions
  • Some claimed that their disabilities stemmed from 9/11 clean up

By Meghan Keneally



Dozens more retired New York police officers and firefighters have been arrested in connection to the disability benefits fraud scheme.

Another 28 people have been arrested throughout the day, making this the second round of arrests in the wide-ranging social security benefits scheme.

The plot was first reported in January when the Manhattan District Attorney announced that more than 100 people were arrested after being involved in a longterm plot wherein they claimed to have disabilities like post traumatic stress disorder in an effort to steal hundreds of thousands from the government.

Being taken in: This is one of the 28 former police and firefighters who were arrested today for their alleged involvement in the benefit fraud scheme that stole up to $400million from taxpayers

Being taken in: This is one of the 28 former police and firefighters who were arrested today for their alleged involvement in the benefit fraud scheme that stole up to $400million from taxpayers


Tarnishing the badge: The latest batch of suspects have been named and have been rounded up

Tarnishing the badge: The latest batch of suspects have been named and have been rounded up


Perp walk: The 28 individuals- including at least six women- were brought to authorities in Manhattan on Tuesday

Perp walk: The 28 individuals- including at least six women- were brought to authorities in Manhattan on Tuesday


The latest 28 offenders have been named but not identified in pictured.

One of the most interesting arrests is that of former police officer Sam Esposito, whose father Joseph was arrested last month after being labeled one of the scheme’s ‘ringleaders’.

Of the latest arrests, 16 were retired NYPD officers, four were from the fire department, one was from both the fire department and then police department and another was from the department of corrections.

Aside from those 21 individuals, there were seven others who were arrested today and the list of all 28 names was released publicly but it does not indicate which suspect corresponded with which agency.

‘Last month’s indictment was the first step in ending a massive fraud against American taxpayers,’ said District Attorney Cy Vance in a statement.

‘Today, dozens of additional defendants have been charged with fabricating psychiatric conditions in order to fraudulently obtain Social Security Disability insurance, a critically important social safety net reserved for those truly in need.

Warmer waters: Like a handful of other disability recipients before him, William Korinek (seen here with his wife) moved down to Florida after retiring from the New York force

Warmer waters: Like a handful of other disability recipients before him, William Korinek (seen here with his wife) moved down to Florida after retiring from the New York force


‘These defendants are accused of gaming the system by lying about their lifestyle, including their ability to work, drive, handle money, shop, and socialize, in order to obtain benefits to which they were not entitled.

Caught: Michael Guicie of Manalapan, New Jersey was one of the 28 accused

Caught: Michael Guicie of Manalapan, New Jersey was one of the 28 accused


‘Their lies were repetitive and extensive. My Office is continuing to work with the U.S. Social Security Administration to bring additional cases, where appropriate.’

All told, prosecutors told The New York Daily News that up to $400million may have been netted by the schemers, and it is entirely possible that hundreds of others could be arrested.

There were 102 people who were indicted as recipients in the fraudulent benefits scheme on January 7.

The recipients were a mix of 72 former NYPD officers, eight former fire fighters, and other corrections officers all who made up different physical and psychological conditions that they reportedly incurred on the job.

Some of the accused had been falsely claiming disability funds since the 1980s- with the help of four administrative ringleaders- while others only started after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Many were coached about how they could appear depressed or in the throes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and others said that their work on Ground Zero led them to feel incapacitated in large crowds.

The roles of the individuals arrested today and the bogus claims that they allegedly made have yet to be explicitly laid out.

Under cover: Some of the schemers had been benefiting from ill-earned disability payments for decades

Under cover: Some of the schemers had been benefiting from ill-earned disability payments for decades


Waiting for the story: In the District Attorney's earlier round up of more than 100 recipients, they even told how they were determined to be falsifying their claims

Waiting for the story: In the District Attorney’s earlier round up of more than 100 recipients, they even told how they were determined to be falsifying their claims

When the District Attorney’s office made their case in January, they released photos of some of the accused blatantly showing off their wealth and behaving in ways that would been impossible if their disability claims were true.

Glenn Lieberman, 48, was held up by the New York District Attorney as one of the poster boys for the widespread scam.

Rounding them up: The 28 new suspects are being brought into the Manhattan District Attorney's office over the course of Tuesday- many of whom are now in the custody of their former colleagues

Rounding them up: The 28 new suspects are being brought into the Manhattan District Attorney’s office over the course of Tuesday- many of whom are now in the custody of their former colleagues


Walk of shame: This new suspect tries to hide his face using an Under Armor hat

Walk of shame: This new suspect tries to hide his face using an Under Armor hat


The former police officer was living in a rented $1.5million  waterfront mansion that has a pool and access to a waterway where he parked his two jet skis at the time of his arrest.

The officers were not the only ones in on the scheme, as The Post reports that some of the accused’ siblings pulled the same move.

Vincent LaMantia is one of the 102 indicted fraudsters, and his siblings Darrin, Karen and Thomas all told officials that they had psychiatric ailments that made it impossible for them to hold down a job.

All told, the Staten Island siblings collected $596,000- with the largest portion- $287,000- going to Thomas as he began making disability claims in 2002.

Their time behind bars: These three men were brought in to the DA's office on Tuesday

Their time behind bars: These three men were brought in to the DA's office on Tuesday

Their time behind bars: These three men were brought in to the DA's office on Tuesday


Their time behind bars: These three men were brought in to the DA’s office on Tuesday

Vincent, 43, collected $148,000 and the remaining $161,000 was split between Karen, Kevin and Darrin.


Many of the fraudsters left a virtual trail, including Vincent LaMantia who posted a motivational video online (which has now been removed) where he talked about ways to get rich quick. 

Another such example was that of Joseph Morrone, who told authorities that his work after the September 11th attacks left him with a debilitating fear of crowds.

On Facebook, he was pictured selling cannolis at the crowded San Gennaro festival in Little Italy.

The suspicion is that there were a handful of ‘crooked’ lawyers and doctors who worked with the responders in question and were fully aware of how to ‘game the system’.

The four alleged ‘ringleaders’ were identified first, and it is clear that their positions within the NYPD and background in legal work helped them evade capture for years.

Sending a message: Glenn Lieberman is pictured on a jet ski, clearly not as incapacitated as he claimed to be in his benefit filing. He was one of the original 102 people caught in the first bust in January

Sending a message: Glenn Lieberman is pictured on a jet ski, clearly not as incapacitated as he claimed to be in his benefit filing. He was one of the original 102 people caught in the first bust in January


Active: Rich Cosentino collected a total of $207639 since May 2008

Active: Rich Cosentino collected a total of $207639 since May 2008

Participants would start out by contacting John Minerva, 61, a Detectives Endowment Association consultant, or Joseph Esposito, 64, a retired member of the NYPD.

Minerva or Esposito would then refer the fraudsters to one of two lawyers who were in on the scheme- Thomas Hale, 89, and former FBI agent Raymond Lavallee, 83.

All four are charged with first and second degree grand larceny. The 9/11 disability claims are not the first that the four men have had a hand in, as ABC reports that they are believed to have been running disability scams since 1988.

The lawyers put the schemers in touch with two different doctors- but not after some coaching.

(By Jonathan Bandler, Oct 7, 2014)

The Police Beat.


A retired New York City police officer from Yorktown facing charges of fraudulently collecting more than $300,000 in federal disability pay while working for Tourneau had previously worked for an Elmsford armored car company – also while claiming to be too injured to work.

James Carson was director of security at American Armored Car Co. from the mid-1990s until the early 2000s, The Journal News has learned.

But since 1990, when he began getting Social Security after a slip-and-fall accident wrenched his back and forced his retirement from the NYPD, Carson should not have been doing any work. He repeatedly claimed he wasn’t working on federal eligibility forms, according to the criminal complaint against him.

Carson, 50, was released on $600,000 bond following his appearance Oct. 1 in federal court in Manhattan. He was arrested that morning at his home and charged with theft of government property, making false statements and failing to report income. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The charges covered in the complaint relate to the past 10 years, when Carson collected $306,000 in Social Security disability benefits while working at Tourneau. During that time, Carson won a prestigious award from the National Retail Federation in 2010 for solving a scheme in which two company managers made nearly $700,000 in fraudulent credit card purchases.

Carson declined to answer questions about the charges or about his work at the armored car company when he answered the door at his home Monday.

Tourneau representatives have not returned several phone messages.

Carson is accused of hiding income – as much as $138,000 a year – by having Tourneau pay his wages to a corporation, JACC Security, based at his home. The corporation then paid the wages to Carson’s wife, Carmen, the chief executive officer of the corporation. The money was then listed as her wages in the couple’s annual joint tax returns, according to the complaint.

It was unclear whether a similar payment scheme was in place for any employment before Tourneau.

Former co-workers at the armored car company said they recognized Carson from media coverage of his arrest last week.

American Armored Car Co. shut down more than five years ago. One of its owners, Dominick Colasuonno, served two years in federal prison after he and his brother were convicted in 2007 of tax fraud for failing to pay payroll taxes for employees of the armored car company and bank fraud related to their check cashing company

Colasuonno could not be reached for comment.

Federal authorities would not confirm whether they knew about Carson’s earlier employment or whether he could face additional charges related to the disability funds he collected while working for American Armored Car. Since 1990, he has collected more than $650,000 in Social Security disability.

“(We) cannot confirm or deny allegations of Mr. Carson’s alleged work activity prior to 2004, however the investigation is ongoing,” said Special Agent in Charge Edward Ryan of the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General.

Carson filled out Report of Continuing Disability forms in 1995 and 1998, according to the criminal complaint. In them, he agreed that he would notify the Social Security Administration if his medical condition improved and he returned to work and acknowledged that lying on those forms was a federal crime.

Carson was already under investigation in April when he showed up limping and walking with a cane for an interview regarding his continued receipt of benefits. He claimed that he had not worked since the date of his slip-and-fall in 1990 due to his back pain. On forms he filled out, Carson denied having any income since his disability began; said he rarely drives; and doesn’t go anywhere on a regular basis.

But throughout the spring and early summer, Special Agent Peter Dowd chronicled Carson’s regular comings and goings between his home and Tourneau’s Long Island City office. Dowd said he observed Carson himself driving and saw closed-circuit video of Carson walking up stairs from the garage “without apparent difficulty and without a cane.”

Besides the Social Security and salary Carson was collecting, he also got an annual disability pension for his seven years with the NYPD that is now $42,134, according to the New York City Police Pension Fund.


Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Government Vows To Clean Up Disability Program Waste

Government tries to clean up disability program

(By Hoppy Kercheval in Hoppy’s Commentary | December 30, 2013)

(NOTE: the views expressed here are those of Hoppy Kercheval and his alone. If you want some accurate information about the Social Security Disability Determination Process, you would be wise to read socialNsecurity, the Confessions of a Social Security Judge. Available on See )

The federal government may finally be getting a handle on the runaway Social Security Disability Insurance Program. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Social Security Administration is “tightening its grip on 1,500 administrative law judges to ensure that disability benefits are awarded consistently and to reign in fraud in the program.”

SSDI payments have risen dramatically in recent years.  A combination of the economic downtown driving more unemployed workers to the program and liberal awarding of benefits by some judges has raised SSDI rolls 20 percent in the last six years to 12 million people, with an annual budget of $135 billion.

At this rate, the disability program will have spent all its reserves by 2016, forcing either an increase in payroll taxes or a cut in benefits.

The Journal reports that the administrative law judges (ALJ) will no longer have “complete individual independence.”  Instead, they will be subject to supervision and management from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ) , the union representing the judges says it fears that will open the process to political interference, but that’s a straw man.  Many of these disability judges need someone looking over their shoulder.

The poster boy for waste, fraud and abuse in SSDI is ALJ  D.B. Daugherty of Huntington.  As a Social Security administrative law judge, Daugherty awarded benefits in virtually every case… thousands of them.  He worked closely with attorney Attorney Eric Conn, who advertised heavily in West Virginia and Kentucky, looking for potential clients.

According to the Journal, Daugherty once told a colleague, “Some of these judges act like it’s their own damn money we’re giving away.”  Daugherty resigned after the Journal first reported the story in 2011.

During the Great Depression, when Congress was first considering a federal insurance program for the disabled (the law didn’t pass until almost 20 years later), a Social Security Advisory Council actuary warned of costs beyond “anything that can be forecast.”

The fear was that well-intentioned assistance for any person with impairments of mind or body that would keep him from being gainfully employed for their rest of his life would devolve into a version of unemployment.

That warning has proven prophetic as this country’s Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has spun out of control and is now on course to run out of money by 2016.

Sunday night, CBS 60 Minutes aired a segment entitled “Disability USA,” which probed the abuse of SSDI.  Steve Kroft reported that SSDI rolls have risen 20 percent just in the last six years to 12 million people, with a budget of $135 billion.

West Virginia, despite a small population, is a big contributor to the SSDI rolls.  The AP reports that “West Virginia leads the nation in the percentage of adults receiving government assistance for disabilities.”

A big reason for the surge in SSDI is that people who have had their claims denied are hiring law firms that specialize in winning appeals.

According to 60 Minutes, “Last year, the Social Security Administration paid a billion dollars to claimants’ lawyers out of its cash-strapped disability trust fund.  The biggest chunk–$70 million—went to Binder & Binder, the largest disability firm in the country.

Jenna Fliszar, a lawyer who used to work for Binder & Binder and represent clients from West Virginia and other states, told CBS, “I call it a legal factory because that’s all it is.  They have figured out the system and they’ve made it into a huge national firm that makes millions of dollars a year on Social Security Disability.”

In 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta reported on one Huntington-based disability judge who nearly always sided with the claimant.  Judge David B. “D.B.” Daugherty awarded benefits in all but four of 1,284 cases during one fiscal year.  The national average is 60 percent approval.

A report by the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs estimates that Daugherty awarded more than $2.5 billion in benefits in the last 7 years of his career.

The Journal reported that Daugherty worked closely with lawyer Eric Conn, who advertises heavily in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, looking for potential clients. Daugherty resigned after the Journal’s reports. Conn, who continues a thriving practice in SSDI cases, was evasive in a brief interview with 60 Minutes about his relationship with the former judge.

The abuse of the SSDI system has caught the attention of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs. It held a hearing Monday and issued a report finding “a raft of improper practices by the Conn law firm to obtain disability benefits, inappropriate collusion between Mr. Conn and a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (Daugherty), and inept agency oversight which enabled the misconduct to continue for years.”

The Committee report says Daugherty’s bank records show $96,000 in cash deposits from 2003 to 2011, for which Daugherty refused to explain the origin or source of the funds.

As one of the SSDI administrative judges said, “If the American public knew what was going on in our system, half would be outraged and the other half would apply for benefits.”

Frankly, it’s predictable that Americans hit by hard economic times are tempted to latch on to any government help they can, especially when there is an alliance of lawyers, doctors and judges willing to shepherd them through the system.

In doing so, however, they are squandering taxpayer dollars and bankrupting a legitimate program.

Meanwhile, earlier this year federal authorities arrested 75 people in Puerto Rico on charges of defrauding SSDI out of millions of dollars.  A former Social Security employee teamed with complicit doctors to falsely diagnose individuals as mentally incapable of working.

But the problem is not just the outliers like Daugherty and the Puerto Rican scam.

As the Journal reports, there is widespread disparity in how judge’s rule.  “Dozens of judges awarded benefits in 90 percent of their cases, while others were much less likely to find someone unable to find work, denying benefits in more than 80 percent of their cases, data showed.”

SSDI is an essential part of the country’s safety net.  Those who are impaired, either in mind or body, and cannot work are entitled by law to support.  However, it’s important to remember that SSDI is not another option for the unemployed, nor should it be an easy target for scammers.

Politicians like to say they can save taxpayer dollars by tightening up on waste, fraud and abuse–it’s easier than proposing real budget cuts–but in the case of SSDI, they’re right about the profligate misspending.

During the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on Thursday January 16th, Rep. Tim Griffin (R- Ark.) raised questions about the disability program’s efficiency and accuracy in the wake of recent high-profile fraud cases.

Social Security Administration Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll and SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin testified before the subcommittee about the SSA’s ability to root out fraud and handle employees who are implicated in a scheme.

Colvin testified that 99 percent of disability payments are made correctly. Griffin, however, noted recent disability schemes in New York, Puerto Rico and West Virginia and challenged the accuracy of Colvin’s claim.

That talking point, Griffin said, “needs to be erased” because the nature of fraud makes it impossible to know how rampant abuse of Social Security disability has become.

Griffin also questioned the SSA’s ability to reprimand and fire SSA employees who are investigated or implicated in disability schemes.

“…We all know that in order to fire someone, they do not have to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law applying (the) beyond a reasonable doubt standard,” Griffin said. “That’s not the standard to fire people.”

O’Carroll said the preference is to place an employee on leave without pay while investigating criminal activities; however, sometimes employees are left in place and monitored in an effort to identify co-conspirators.

Ms. Colvin is running the agency until the White House nominates a commissioner, and the White House has not signaled when it might move on the vacancy.

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

Federal Investigators Widen Probe of Doctors In Potentially Large Scale Disability Fraud Scheme

Social secruity

Social secruity (Photo credit: SalFalko)

Social Security administrative Law Judges (ALJ) are approving more claims for disability benefits in 2013 than in previous years. A federal probe in 2011 revealed wide spread disparities in the approval rates of different states and among ALJs in the same office. The chances of being awarded disability benefits appear to be influenced by the State one lives in and the ALJ who is assigned to hear your case. Your chances increase dramatically if the medical doctor who examines you files a report stating that you cannot work because of a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from sitting for long periods of time or from concentrating on specific job assignments.

Disorders of the back are the most common type of physical impairment. Physical evidence of a condition that can reasonably be expected to result in a serious impairment is easy to ascertain.  Mental impairments are harder to prove than physical impairments. They are more subjective. In the case of an allegation of a mental impairment, judges are forced to rely more heavily on the expert opinion of a trained mental health professional, usually a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist.

Federal investigators on Wednesday, August 21, searched six facilities in Puerto Rico as part of a broadening probe into potential widespread disability fraud.

Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Social Security Inspector General’s office (SSIG), among others, searched five doctors‘ offices and one other location as part of their sweep, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney said. The spokeswoman wouldn’t comment further, saying it was part of a continuing investigation and that the six search warrants were sealed.

Doctors play a big role in determining whether people qualify for federal disability benefits because their recommendations often sway state disability determiners and Federal Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) working for the Social Security Administration. Criminal investigators have been looking into whether doctors were paid to improperly create documents detailing applicants’ inability to work.

The federal investigation into disability fraud was launched in 2011 after a page-one article in The Wall Street Journal revealed widespread disparity in how some states and U.S. territories implement the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The chances of winning benefits could vary widely based on where someone applied for benefits, even though standards are supposed to be uniform.


In 2006, just 36% of initial applicants in Puerto Rico were awarded benefits. In December 2010, the award rate had jumped to 69%. By 2010, nine of the top 10 U.S. ZIP Codes for workers receiving disability benefits were on the island.

At the time, SSA officials said the high number of recipients and the high award rate was due to the island’s weak economy and a lack of adequate health care for workers.

The program is overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in Baltimore, but the State Disability Determination Service (DDS) is responsible for performing an initial screening to determine eligibility. Social Security officials said in 2011 that Puerto Rico had rigorous standards and a virtually nonexistent error rate.

The characteristics of Puerto Rico’s beneficiaries differed from other areas. In addition to the large clusters in certain zip codes, federal data showed that 33.3% of Puerto Rican beneficiaries qualified because of “mood disorders,” a rate that is at least 10 percentage points higher than any U.S. state.

Disability examiners and federal judges say mental disorders are harder to measure. decisions are often based on medical opinions contained in Consultative Examinations (CE) issued by doctors to make a determination.

 This probe that has been ongoing for two years.  Federal authorities have made 68 arrests in Puerto Rico alone.

The inspector general from the U.S. Social Security Administration has stated that prosecutors have now also charged a former Social Security employee as well as three doctors with having taken part in assisting individuals in making false disability insurance claims. They worked to help individuals to falsely claim that they were too injured or sick to be able to work.

Disability InsuranceIn return, the suspects were allegedly provided a certain portion of the disability insurance payments of the scammers.

Typically, the cuts that they received from the disability insurance payments ranged from $150 to $6,000. Among those who were charged, dozens included individuals who had actually made these fake claims. The arrests come on the heels of an investigation that had been conducted by the Wall Street Journal in 2011, which looked into unusual claims that were being made in Puerto Rico.

This case also draws attention to an increasing problem that the federal government is currently facing, which is the ballooning disability insurance payments within a program that has standards that are notoriously soft regarding the actual definition of what a disability actually is. For instance, in 2011, when the investigation began from the news paper giant, the federal payments in that program reached $190 billion.

It has been suggested that the reason that disability insurance payments have been growing as quickly as they have – now paying out to over 14 million Americans – is that it has become a sneaky safety net for individuals who are unable to find adequate jobs, but who desperately need to make an income, as the average annual payment is up to twice the income of employment at minimum wage. Another contributor to the growth is that the average age of the workforce is getting higher, and older individuals have a higher risk of experiencing health problems.

SSDI was designed as a way to provide benefits for people who can’t work because of mental or physical health problems, and Americans can qualify for benefits because of ailments ranging from severe back pain to terminal cancer. A lifetime of benefits, including access to Medicare, can cost the government about $300,000 a person.

The program became a safety-net-of-last-resort for millions of Americans during the recent economic downturn, including many who had collected unemployment benefits and had hoped to return to the workforce. SSDI had 7.6 million beneficiaries in 2003, and that number swelled to 10.9 million by the end of 2012. More than 200,000 of the beneficiaries are in Puerto Rico, according to federal data.

SSDI paid out $136.7 billion in disability benefits last year, almost twice as much as the government spent on food stamps. The vast majority of people who receive disability benefits never leave the program to return to the workforce.

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

Blog at The Adventure Journal Theme.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 794 other followers