Apr 26, 2015

Federal Bar Association Newsletter

     The Social Security Law Section of the Federal Bar Association has released its Spring 2015 newsletter. This is the only attorney group with members in private practice as well as members employed by the Social Security Administration.


Anonymous said...

The article on claimant suicides was particularly good and reminded me of one reason I would have trouble ever being an ALJ. If you turn down someone who legitimately can't work, you might in fact be causing their premature death. That moral responsibility is a heavy one for anyone with a conscience.

Johnny Cash said...

@7:14pm. We had that happen in our practice not too long ago. And to remind the ALJ of the impact their decisions can have, we sent him a letter advising him what had transpired eventhough the case had to be appealed to the AC.

Joyce Krutick Craig said...

I'm a retired ALJ. On one occasion, after I indicated I needed additional evidence, and the attorney and his client left the hearing room, the client indicated he was going to kill himself. The attorney called me and advised me as to what the client said and I had them return immediately. Back in the hearing room I questioned the claimant. I then took the attorney and the claimant's wife into the hallway behind the hearing room and asked for permission to call 911 and have the claimant taken to a hospital. Both gave permission. The claimant was taken to the hospital, and after receiving the records (and the other evidence I requested initially)I ultimately granted the claim. I received a letter from the wife thanking me for saving her husband's life!
When ALJ's aren't being pressured to deny claims (as they were when I started in 1981, and are now), we can do a lot of good!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 2:51. From my experience, most ALJs realize that many claimants' lives are literally in their hands and do the right thing.

I once had a woman come to me with a tragic story: her husband applied for DIB and subsequently committed suicide. She submitted the death certificate and records describing the suicide. DDS then proceeded to deny the case. The denial letter indicated that while they acknowledged that the claimant did commit suicide, they thought that he was still able to work. The pain from the wife telling me the story coupled with her anger that Social Security still denied the claim, is something I will always remember. I filed the request for hearing, waited for the file to be assigned to an ALJ, and requested an on-the-record favorable decision. The ALJ quickly issued the favorable decision.

Anonymous said...


Your post is the smoking gun that we all suspect. ALJ ARE pressured to deny claims. I believe its the same pressure at the initial and recon

Anonymous said...

Actually, due to time constraints of the Agency we are pressured to pay cases as they move through the system so much quicker and effortless. No one has ever pressured me to deny a case in my 4 years as an ALJ.

Anonymous said...

Dear Judge Craig,

Reading about your thoughtful action brightened my day. God bless you for your compassion and response.

As to pressure approve or deny claims, here's my take. Significant pressure developed several years ago to process claims and decisions quickly. Favorables are quicker and easier to write. I think the pressure was actually on productivity, and any pressure felt toward approvals was secondary to that.

As to pressure to deny, it may not be as straightforward as the prior production / approval pressure, but it is undeniable. The Administration, management, and line ALJ's aren't deaf to Congressional hearings. Some will disregard it, but some will take it to heart. We've certainly seen a much lower approval rate over the last two years.