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 TribLIVE.com) 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 (bergerandgreen.com) and vice president of the National Association of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (nosscr.org).

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