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Disability Law News - December 2013


Articles in this Issue

Settlement of ALJ Bias Class Action Approved
December 23, 2013
On October 18, 2013, Chief Judge Carol Bagely Amon of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted final approval of a settlement in Padro v. Astrue, Case No. 11-CV-1788 (CBA)(RLM), a class action lawsuit complaining of generalized bias by five Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) in SSA’s Queens, New York hearing office. Read More

SSA Limits Access to Information
December 23, 2013
Touting financial and security concerns, SSA has announced that effective February 2014, it will no longer provide Social Security number (SSN) printouts and benefit verification information in field offices. Read More

SSA Pays Small COLA for 2014
December 23, 2013
The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a modest 1.5% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2014. Read More

SSA Needs an Appeal Process that Works
December 23, 2013
According to an Issue Brief prepared by the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients are harmed when SSA stops or decreases benefits and they have no effective means of presenting their care. Read More

Hematological Listing Changes Proposed
December 23, 2013
The Social Security Administration (SSA) proposes to revise the criteria in the Listing of Impairments used to evaluate cases involving hematological disorders in adults and children. According to the agency, the proposed revisions reflect advances in medical knowledge, its adjudicative experience, and information received from medical experts and the public. Read More

Disability Examiners Can Issue Favorable Decisions
December 23, 2013
Disability Examiners from the Division of Disability Determinations (DDD) have the authority to make Compassionate Allowance fully favorable determinations without getting approval from a medical reviewer. Read More

New Changes to “Cancer” Listing Published
December 23, 2013
The Social Security Administration (SSA) proposes to revise the criteria in parts A and B of the Listing of Impairments used to evaluate cases involving cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases) in adults and children. 78 Fed. Reg. 76507 (Dec. 17, 2013). Read More

Mental Impairment Listing Extended
December 23, 2013
SSA announced that it is extending the expiration date of the Mental Disorders body system in the Listing of Impairments. The agency noted that it was making no other revisions to this body system in this final rule. Read More

Second Circuit Adheres to Treating Physician Rule
December 23, 2013
Advocates within the Second Circuit don’t have much celebrate from the Court of Appeals these days. A recent summary order, however, gives us hope that the treating physician rule is still alive and sort of well. Read More

District Court Rejects Magistrate’s R&R
December 23, 2013
Attorney Mark Schneider of Plattsburgh convinced District Court Judge Mae D’Agostino of the Northern District of New York to reject a Report and Recommendation issued by Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter. Read More

Judge Remands for Consideration of Fibromyalgia
December 23, 2013
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Siragusa of the Western District of New York refused to accept the Commissioner’s post hoc explanations for the omissions and errors of the ALJ in a recent case, and instead remanded the case for further consideration. Read More

New York Court of Appeals Rules on EIPA
December 23, 2013
On November 21, 2013, the New York Court of Appeals issued an opinion on the Exempt Income Protection Act (EIPA) of 2008. The EIPA was designed to better protect statutorily exempt income - including Social Security and SSI benefits - from access by creditors. Read More

Retiring Advocate Shares Tips
December 23, 2013
Sue Lane-Kreutz, a paralegal with the Batavia office of Neighborhood Legal Services, retired last month after many years of representing claimants before the Social Security Administration. She leaves some word of wisdom for the rest of us. Read More

ALJ Rejects VE Opinion
December 23, 2013
Who says that an advocate can’t rebut the testimony of a vocational expert (VE)? Not Kathleen Traina of Legal Assistance to Disabled at Erie County DSS. She convinced an ALJ to reject the VE’s opinion that her client could return to his past relevant work. Read More

Appeals Council Issues Favorable Decision
December 23, 2013
Victoria Esposito of the Canton office of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York received a fully favorable decision from the Appeals Council.  That is a rare enough event, but the Appeals Council specifically sought the opinion of a Medical Expert (ME) as to whether the client met or equaled a Listing. Read More

ALJ Ignores VE Testimony
December 23, 2013
Speaking of successfully getting around VE testimony, LJ Fisher of the Rochester office of the Empire Justice Center also snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Read More

Appeals Council Remands 17% of Requests
December 23, 2013
Is the Appeals Council a rubber stamp? In Fiscal Year, the Appeals Council disposed of 176,000 Requests for Reviews. It denied review in 77% of the cases, remanded 17%, and dismissed 4%. It reversed the ALJ and issued fully favorable decisions in a whopping 1% of the cases in which it granted review, issued partially favorable decisions in less than 1%, and unfavorable less than 1%. Bottom line? Claimants now win in the range 18% of Appeals Council Request for Reviews, if remands are included in the win column. Read More

Is SSA Obligated to Obtain Prior Files?
December 23, 2013
Evidence obtained in the course of a claimant’s prior application can be highly relevant to a current determination. But frequently, the claimant or advocate does not have access to - or may not even be aware of - that evidence unless SSA incorporates it into the current exhibit file. Read More

Is FIT Out of Shape?
December 23, 2013
Back in 2005, SSA rolled out FIT the “Findings Integrated Template.” According to SSA, FIT was a Commissioner initiative designed to improve the quality and consistency of Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) decisions. The FIT approach integrated the findings of fact into the body of the decision. Read More

Web News - December 2013
December 23, 2013
Resources to Assist in CDR Cases; Help for Deciphering Vision Test Results; Family Budget Tool Available; Help for Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence Read More

End Note - December 2013
Can I Interrupt You for a Minute?
December 23, 2013
How many times a day do you wander down the hall to ask a colleague a quick question? Or how often are you interrupted by a co-worker who hopes you will know the citation to the perfect case off the top of your head, or where to get the best burritos in town? Read More

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