ALJ Settlement Could Impact Thousands of SSDI Appeal Cases

According to Reuters, a proposed settlement in a case involving five federal administrative law judges (ALJs) in Queens, New York may allow thousands of people to receive new hearings for their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims.

Reuters reports that a class action settlement, filed on May 17, is an attempt to resolve a 2011 lawsuit accusing the five ALJs of failing to give fair hearings to disabled individuals who appeared before them. A judge must approve the settlement.

Eight disabled individuals whose claims were rejected by one of five ALJs — David Nisnewitz, Marilyn Hoppenfeld, Seymour Fier, Michael Cofresi and Hazel Strauss, filed the lawsuit in 2011 against the then commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) Michael Astrue. The ALJs work in the Queens Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, a part of the SSA.

The lawsuit said that the ALJs created a “brick wall of bias and accused them of systematically ignoring medical evidence, failing to adhere to legal standards and depriving claimants of fair hearings,” according to Reuters. The news service reported that the Queens office had “one of the highest denial rates in the country, nearly 49 percent between 2005 and 2009, compared with 19 percent in neighboring Brooklyn.”

If the settlement were approved an estimated 4,000 people whose claims were denied would be entitled to new hearings. It will be interesting to see how this settlements plays out and whether it affects other lawsuits and cases across the country, where denials following SSA hearings are common. During the 2012 fiscal year, nearly 850,000 Americans filed a disability claim appeal.

If you have questions about applying for disability benefits, contact a Tulsa Social Security disability attorney. We offer free consultations, and you may reach us by phone at (918) 587-0050. Contact us today to learn more about your rights.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys

Troutman Touts: Nationally, about 58 percent of SSDI appeals are awarded to applicants following an ALJ hearing.


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