ShareThis Page

Misleading on disability

| Thursday, July 11, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

As an attorney who represents people with disabilities, I found The Associated Press news stories “Disability judges too lax, House investigators say” and “Judges tell House panel they are pressured to approve Social Security disability benefits” (June 25, June 28 and extremely misleading.

In fact, administrative law judges' (ALJs') allowance rates have fallen significantly since 2007.

To explain, there are a number of legitimate reasons why ALJs reverse state-agency disability determinations.

Most claimants wait at least a year for an ALJ hearing; in many cases, their conditions have deteriorated with the passage of time.

ALJs are able to call expert medical and vocational witnesses to provide further explanation of the claimant's impairments, treatment and functional limitations affecting work. Often at the hearing, previously missing records have been collected and the judge has a much more complete record to make a decision.

I know firsthand that strict eligibility standards and medical evidence are required to prove that an individual is disabled. Many applicants are terminally ill — about one in five male and one in six female beneficiaries die within five years of receiving benefits.

Get the facts straight.

Cindy Berger

The writer is a founding partner of the Pittsburgh law firm Berger and Green ( and vice president of the National Association of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.