Do You Believe That The ALJ Who Heard Your Social Security Case Was Biased Against You?

Law Blog

Social Security claimants can wait longer than a year to have their hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. So, what happens when you feel like the ALJ bases his or her decision on your looks, gender, or race instead of your disability? If you feel like the ALJ discriminated against you, this is what you should know.

Discrimination can and does happen.

Your impression that the ALJ was biased or discriminatory may be accurate. There have been some unfortunate cases of extreme bias that have come to light over the past few years. For example, Judge John Pleuss, a Social Security ALJ in Wisconsin, has been accused of deciding whether or not to approve claimants based on whether or not he liked their looks. He's also accused of making racially-biased comments about black claimants. There are even allegations that he's never approved a disability claim by any Hmong claimant. He isn't the first ALJ who has come under fire for such actions. In 2011, five ALJs in New York came under fire for being unnecessarily harsh and disrespectful to applicants, especially those that were foreign-born. 

One thing you may want to examine is how many cases are approved by the ALJ that heard your case. In the case of the New York judges, for example, their rate of denial for applicants was 50.9%, which was much higher than the denial rate of other areas. If the ALJ's rate of approval for cases seems unusually low, that could add weight to your suspicions.

You have three different options for dealing with a discriminatory ruling.

You essentially have three options when dealing with a ruling that you believe was discriminatory:

  1. File a request for review with the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council can review your case and has the power to award you benefits or remand the case back to the ALJ's office for a new hearing. A review by the Appeals Council is not automatic, however. They can refuse to review the claim.
  2. File a complaint with Social Security's Office of Appellate Operations. They can actually look to see if your case is part of a pattern on the ALJ's part.
  3. File a complaint with the Office of General Counsel. This will cause an investigation into the ALJ's behavior.

Keep in mind that neither of the last two options affects your actual claim, so they should be considered in addition to (not instead of) a request to the Appeals Council.

If you believe that the ALJ that heard your case was discriminatory or biased against you for some reason, discuss the situation with an attorney who handles Social Security. 


24 June 2016

Legal Issues in Flipping Property

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