Social Security Administrative Law Judge Drew Swank was mentioned here recently because of a law review article he wrote. He's now drawing attention for the decisions he issues on disability claims. From the Virginia Lawyers Weekly:
[Swank] has one of the highest denial rates in the country. Swank rejects nearly eight of every 10 claims for disability benefits, according to a computer analysis of his rulings.
Attorneys and claimants who’ve had cases before Swank say he is unfair....
“All I’ve ever wanted is for him to do this right,” said Bruce Billman, a Richmond-area attorney who represents people seeking assistance under the Social Security Disability Insurance program.
“If he wants to turn people down, at least do it on the proper evidence, using the proper witnesses, and give us a chance.”
Billman is a former president of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. He has filed several complaints with the Social Security Administration, accusing Swank of failing to provide due process. ...
It’s not just statistics that have raised concerns among parties who’ve gone before Swank.
Attorneys and claimants accuse Swank of disregarding or excluding the findings of their physicians and vocational experts. ...
Billman, who has practiced disability law for more than 30 years, has filed more than 400 pages of complaints against Swank with the Social Security Administration’s chief administrative law judge in Falls Church. The documents describe what Billman sees as numerous instances of unfairness toward his clients.
However, no action has been taken against Swank.
“He is untouchable,” Billman said. “And every time you file a complaint and nothing gets done, it just reinforces that with him. There’s no system in place to protect you from somebody like this.”
Billman said he complained about Swank in 2008. Until that point, the judge had denied about half of his cases, Billman said. Since the complaint, he said, Swank has denied about 90 percent of his cases. ...
Over several weeks while researching this article, the reporters asked to interview Swank and emailed him questions. Swank said that he wants to defend his record but that he has not received permission from the Social Security Administration to talk to the media.
“The policy originates with the chief judge’s office in Fairfax, VA,” Swank wrote in an email.Interestingly, Swank has an article forthcoming in another law journal whose title strongly suggests that he believes that Social Security has a lax approach to misconduct by those who represent Social Security claimants. People who live in glass houses ...