Carl Boatner suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary artery disease, two liver diseases, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder.
The administrative law judge handling his appeal of the denial for disability payments determined those medical conditions “could reasonably be expected to cause” disabling symptoms.
And then he denied Boatner’s appeal.
He concluded the Carthage man’s severe medical conditions failed to “meet or medically equal the criteria for any listed impairment,” despite the fact they had once landed him in hospice, a care facility designed to give supportive care to people in the final phase of a terminal illness.
Boatner didn’t die before getting his benefits, but that wasn’t the case for Phillip E. Herring of Tupelo.
Vonda Peters of Tupelo received her brother’s third denial letter in the mail the day after his funeral in July 2019. “I don’t normally cuss, but I thought, what the f---?” Peters said.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, in a ruling that eventually awarded Boatner disability benefits, pointed to a pervasive attitude among many administrative law judges to view applicants with skepticism, adding Boatner’s judge issued denials at a rate 25 percent higher than the national average.
“The injustices of the disability payment system are both many and deep,” Reeves ruled. “Research suggests the majority of denials may be incorrect, and applicants struggling to manage their disabilities say such denials can amount to a ‘death sentence.’” ...
In a May 11, 2018, ruling, Reeves posed the question: Did the administrative law judge review the evidence properly?
Reeves’ response: No.
In his blistering opinion, he detailed where each component of the disability process had failed Boatner before he then awarded the veteran truck driver his long-denied benefits.
Reeves turned his focus on the state agency acting on the Social, Security Administration’s behalf — Disability Determination Services. ...
n his ruling, Reeves described the “waiting” Boatner had to do, saying, “Boatner has spent nearly a decade seeking disability payments from the Social Security Administration, filing his last application in 2014. Despite acknowledging the severity of Boatner’s medical conditions and his trips to death’s doorstep, the Administration has denied each of his four applications. These denials have been painful. One caused Boatner to walk out of his house, put a gun to his head, and threaten to kill himself.” ...
In his ruling, Reeves took aim at the disability examiners and the administrative law judge that handled Boatner’s case, noting the ALJ had resolved more than 600 cases in 2016. Reeves also said examiners are not prepared to handle as many cases as SSA asks them to handle.
Mississippi DDS’ 111 examiners processed approximately 64,000 cases last fiscal year, according to Patti Patterson, regional communications director for the Atlanta regional office of the Social Security Administration. Caseloads per examiner range from 65-125 cases, said Chris Howard, head of the Department of Rehabilitation Services. ...