Nov 8, 2013

Bombarding This Blog

     If you read the comments posted on this blog you might come to the impression that everyone knows that:
  • Social Security employees do most of their "work" from at home but they don't really work because they're all lazy. The agency has way too many employees.
  • Social Security's Administrative Law Judges are particularly lazy. They approve Social Security disability claims because they're lazy. A lot of the judges are crooks in cahoots with crooked disability claimants and their crooked attorneys.
  • Most Social Security disability claimants are just crooks trying to scam the program.
  • It's way too easy to get on Social Security disability benefits, especially for "mental illness." Anyone can get on Social Security disability benefits for "mental illness" just by pretending to be crazy.
  • SSI child's benefits are the biggest scam. It's nothing but lazy, drug addicted mothers coaching their kids to act crazy. They get child after child on SSI child's benefits and then steal the money to support their drug habits.
  • Attorneys who represent Social Security claimants are lazy. They're paid huge sums of money by Social Security but they do nothing for their clients. If anything, they're just crooks who assist their crooked clients in perpetrating fraud.
  • There is no money in the Social Security trust funds. The money was all stolen by Democrats. The U.S. government bonds that are supposed to be in the trust funds are meaningless pieces of paper.
  • Social Security is going bankrupt.You'll never get back the money you paid in. It's all a scam.
     Some of this comes from individuals legitimately expressing their opinions. However, it's long been apparent to me that most of this is coming from people who have been paid to post online comments about Social Security. Often, these people pretend to be Social Security employees, Social Security claimants or Social Security attorneys. Often, their comments just don't ring true because they're pretending to be someone they're not.
     Does it seem outlandish, even paranoid to think that someone would be paid to post slanted comments online? Take a look at this article from the Baltimore Sun. Officials at the University of Maryland had a problem. They wanted to shift the University's athletic programs from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten. They knew that many of the University's alumni would be furious with this move. Here's what they did:
Brian Ullmann, the university's assistant vice president for marketing and communications ... wrote that the school planned to "engage professional assistance in helping to drop positive messages into the blogs, comments and message board sites. I will arrange for this service today." ...
Lee Zeidman, the corporate communications consultant who helped Maryland draft letters and talking points, said Wednesday that it is "standard operating procedure" in the business world to weigh in directly on message boards. "There are special PR agencies who work in the digital space who bombard blogs and newspaper sites where no one puts their name," Zeidman said.
     Who would pay online shills to post on Social Security issues? Pete Peterson and the Koch brothers are the prime candidates. They're tossing around tens of millions of dollars in their fight against Social Security. They certainly wouldn't be going after just this blog. It's quite unlikely they know anything about it. They would mostly be going after message boards at news media sites. However, I don't know that there's any other web site quite like this one where there's an ongoing discussion on Social Security issues. If you're doing an online campaign to malign Social Security both as a social program and as an agency, you're going to come here.
    I wonder how someone who works as an online shill would feel about their job. Would it make them proud? Would they tell their children about what they do for a living?


Anonymous said...

Interesting take, Charles. As an SSD attorney, I regularly read your blog and the comments that follow your informative articles. I appreciate your efforts in providing this forum. I would guess that most (if not all) of your readers would be informed of the truth about Social Security as they would likely be SSD advocates, SS employees or claimants. Why else would you visit this blog if you weren't? However, I have noticed that many comments just parrot Fox News talking-points and are completely detached from the truth. I have wondered if informed/intelligent people actually believe these things? You provide an answer to my question.

Anonymous said...

I think you are a little paranoid. I am an SSA attorney (working from home today) and I regularly post comments that are consistent with the bullets 3-6. While I acknowledge that these are stereotypes, stereotypes would not exist if they weren't at least partly true.

Anonymous said...

I post almost daily - wish I was paid to do it.

Anonymous said...

The small number and general variety of comments usually shown for each post (usually less than 10) cast doubt on your suspicion of actions of "online shills". If payment is made, it is obviously from a very small budget and very few have been recruited to shill! Compare that to the resources and finances used by unions, SEIU, NBC, CBS, ABC, NY Times, Washington Post, and the LA Times to shill for their political, economic, and social views. Compare that to your own efforts selecting certain items and posting your views! Of course, you should expect comments. Your 8 bullet points are so exaggerated that they have little relevance to a reasoned discussion on each issue. So far, I have over 33 years of direct experience working for SSA and have never been paid for sharing my views about SSA. Charles, perhaps the issue is that you just cannot handle any questioning of your beliefs. Are you that insecure?

Anonymous said...

Charles, on your twitter you called me a Pete Peterson or some other type of shill after I posted about ECT.

I am an ODAR employee, a progressive voter, and I am not active for any particular political cause, candidate, etc. in so far as donations, volunteer or paid work, campaigning, or any other active or passive involvement with political affairs is concerned (aside from voting and getting into political conversations with friends and family).

I stand by my statement that I have seen ECT in the treatment notes of less than five claimants in the time I've been with the agency. Talk to some ALJs next time you're in an ODAR office and ask how often they see ECT in their cases' treatment notes. Unless my experience is somehow an anomoly, they are going to be hard pressed to note any recent instances.

Don't get upset because employees in the know are countering questionable assertions with unsubstantiated implications. I'll leave open the possibility that you (at any given time) have at least one claimant (denied at DDS at least once) with a mental impairment treated with ECT despite the fact that I have seen ECT in the records of less than five total claimants out of the thousands I've reviewed at ODAR. You've got a large practice, so maybe you do have one such client among the hundreds or thousands of active clients on your rolls; what you're saying could be true, I suppose.

However, regardless of whether your statement is true, I feel the need to provide a counterpoint from the point of view of somebody who sees a large smathering of all cases from within SSA, to counter the implications you are making with very limited information.

Even assuming arguendo that you have at least one such claimant, this fact does not provide adequate basis for your post's implication that there are great numbers of folks getting this rather rare, very intensive treatment (indicative of uncontrolled mental impairments causing life-threatening symptoms) and being denied disability. You take what, at least from my vantage point, cannot be more than an exceedingly rare occurrance and hype it up to make it sound like claimants getting ECT are some appreciable percentage of ODAR claimants with allegations of mental impairments. It's just not the case.

I could do the same thing with favorable cases, you know--point out the rare instances where somebody just rolled over and paid a claimant whose record shows nothing at all and use those cases to make an assertion that undeserving claimant's are being paid left and right. But that would be just as dishonest.

I like your blog because it's pretty much the only private source that talks about SSA issues. You publish data and other information that I often don't encounter anywhere else, at least in a timely manner.

But I don't like hyperbole or unsubstantiated claims, and I feel your readers deserve to read counterpoint from people with knowledge from other areas of the SSA disability world.

Try to thicken that skin up a bit. You're usually on point. And when you aren't, it's almost always because you are a claimant's rep--you really care about your clients and disability claimants generally, and you are fighting for them. Your point of view is (necessarily, appropriately, and understandably) biased towards claimants, which sometimes means it is biased against SSA. That's fine. We commenters just help keep that in check.

Anonymous said...

Me I just collect SSI since I'm severely disabled and have been for many years, I used to post with My real name and I think that's why in a 1 to 2 year period I was investigated by the SSA, as they said the IRS found stuff that looked questionable, of course I provided bank info on these 2 witch hunts(I proved that the info was phony, since what was alleged had no basis in reality and It was news to Me, but then it was a clumsy attempt at a frame up) and after the last time I went anonymous here, as I don't like unwarranted back stabbing attacks from shills.

Anonymous said...

Former SSA employee here of 17 years thinking that you are way too paranoid and partisan. You do well when you stick to posting factual information about the Agency. You lose me when it's the same anti-GOP, pro-Dem take on every story. You're not going to sway anyone to shift parties, so please give up and stick to what you do best.

Anonymous said...


Let's assume you are correct and that many of the comments on this blog are by paid posters. So what? Most of us legitimate readers/posters are smart enough to ignore those "Social Security is Great/Social Security is Terrible" type posts. They have no substance and they just take a shot at one side or the other.

On the other hand, if a "paid" poster makes a valid point and supports their argument, don't they add to the discussion as much as those of us who are sadly unpaid for our views? Don't talking heads on television and think tank "public intellectuals" get paid for expressing a viewpoint? I appreciate diversity of opinion, whether it is paid for or not.

Frankly, I get the feeling that your real problem is your own viewpoint You seemingly cannot fathom the idea that someone working for Social Security or as a Attorney or rep could hold views differing from yours. This is just speculation, I admit, but that is the feeling I got when you unsuccessfully tried to impose a registration requirement on posters which, as you later stated, substantially reduced the number of comments.

I see this as a non-problem on this blog. I think that your legitimate readers are smart enough to ignore or discount the assertions made in your bullet points.

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Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused about why one commenter is preoccupied with ECT. I'm on disability for PTSD and bipolar disorder and I've had ECT several times. I doubt that made it into treatment notes since it was a few years before I retired on disability. But I didn't think the report emphasis was on specific treatments like ECT. I thought it was on whether the person could function.
ECT did help me, it temporarily relieved the symptoms so I could remember what it was like to feel better. but then they said I'd have to do maintenance ECT. I didn't want to, it was expensive and the doctor who did the treatment was pretty far away. But I think what would have actually been in the treatment notes was how much my functioning deteriorated in the time period before I went on disability.
My doctors were very against me going on disability until it was clear I needed it and then I had three doctors making a solid case. I didn't need a lawyer and didn't have to speak to anyone. but ECT was not a part of this discussion as far as I know. I was seeing one of the doctors who wrote a report when I had ECT but the doctor who did ECT didn't write a report since I had three of them.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of SSA employees post here. The whistleblower protection laws are a joke. Look what happened to the whistleblower in Huntington. So forums like this one provide a way to comment on things that seem amiss in SSA without risking one's job.

With regard to comments on this blog about ALJs, it's not that they're lazy, but that their jobs do not require much in terms of legal skills. They don't even have to write their own decisions. All their findings are screened through lower paid attorney decision writers, who often have to explain the law to the ALJs in order to write a legally defensible decision. So from the perspective of some SSA insiders, it appears that the ALJs who land in SSA are people who don't want to challenge themselves much physically or intellectually. They've had jobs other places, and SSA is a place to take it easy without giving up much money. Obviously, there are exceptions, but generally, I doubt that there are many SSA ALJs who could honestly say they've ever had an easier job as an attorney.