ALJ Hazel Strauss just issued a decision that proves she is biased against disability claimants. The Appeals Council had reassigned the case to ALJ Strauss from ALJ Seymour Fier on remand. The claimant is a 62 year old Italian woman with a third grade education who had worked as an unskilled sewing machine operator.
ALJ Strauss relied on the testimony of a medical expert (“ME”) from a prior hearing named Theodore Cohen. ME Cohen’s testimony was shown to be so utterly biased against claimants that ALJ Fier ruled that it had to be struck from the record; and therefore, he did not refer to ME Cohen’s anywhere in his 2008 decision. However, without any authority or explanation for doing so, ALJ Strauss based her October 2, 2009 decision on ME Cohen’s testimony.
Since ALJ Strauss knew that she could not use ME Cohen’s testimony because it had been struck from the record, how is it possible to explain her relying upon it? What possible excuse did ALJ Strauss have for using ME Cohen’s testimony, when it was clear from the record's hearing transcript and ALJ Fier’s 2008 decision that it had been struck?
ALJ Strauss claimed that she reviewed the entire record, which made it abundantly clear that ME Cohen's testimony had been struck. Therefore, ALJ Strauss cannot cannot claim that it was stupidity or negligence that caused her to rely on ME Cohen’s testimony -- ALJ Strauss knew that she was improperly relying on it. ALJ Strauss purposely relied on ME Cohen’s testimony because her preference for denying disability claims inhibited her impartial judgment, which is the American Heritage Dictionary definition for bias.
ALJ Strauss' will be reversed, although that is little solace to the claimant who now has to wait for the lengthy appeal process.