Commissioner Says Attorneys Have No Obligation To Submit Adverse Medical Evidence In Social Security Disability Cases
I posted last week about Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue's testimony before the Senate Finance Committee. I wrote that Astrue said emphatically that attorneys who represent Social Security claimants are under no legal obligation to submit adverse medical evidence. (While I agree that there is no legal obligation, it is my practice to submit adverse medical evidence and I encourage other attorneys to do so but I won't detail my reasons now.)
I wish I could get a video clip of Astrue's testimony just on this subject but so far I haven't. If anyone has the video editing software and experience to do it, this testimony is about one hour into the hearing. I think a lot of people would find it interesting if it were posted on Youtube.
At least, now we have this transcript:
In response to a question from Senator Thune (R-SD) regarding the December 2011 Wall Street Journal article re withholding evidence, the Commissioner responded:Commissioner Astrue: Senator, I'm afraid I am going to have to disagree with a number of the assumptions of your question. First of all, I am familiar with the Wall Street Journal article. We did not take no action - we did refer that to the Office of the Inspector General. If you have questions about the progress of that, I would encourage you to talk to the Inspector General.But that article was relatively thin in terms of the content of allegations. There really was not, in my opinion, very much there. It's also based in part on the misassumption that there's a requirement for all relevant evidence to be provided to the judge. Right now, that is not the law. The previous two Commissioners tried to make that the law and my understanding is that they received a lot of opposition and not much support here in the Congress for that.First of all, the Wall Street Journal had it dead wrong on what the law is. And second, there wasn't much in the way of allegations. Third, it would be unprecedented to go back and review all cases by a law firm on evidence anywhere near this thin. If you had proof of real fraud, and I have no information from the Inspector General that suggests that we have that, then it would be totally unprecedented to do that. Any court that would look at that would throw it out. It would be an enormous waste of the taxpayers' dollars for me to do that.Sen. Thune asked the Commissioner whether he could summarize the Inspector General's findings. He responded that there is no report yet and he testified:Commissioner Astrue: I don't have much more than that. But certainly, my expectation ... Again, Senator, read that Wall Street Journal article very carefully. When you realize, first ofall, that there is not a legal obligation to present every bit of evidence to the Agency because our rules are not written that way, there is a factual error underlying that whole article. Past that, there is not very much very specific in terms of evidence: there is unsupported hearsay, that type ... It may be true. But in order for us to take action, we've got to have some proof and evidence. The Wall Street Joumal article did not provide very much for the Inspector General to go on.