Sunday, March 20, 2011

ALJ Strauss Reversed Again

This is a follow up to my January 26, 2011 post entitled “Does ALJ Strauss Try To Get Reversed?”. That post discussed how the federal courts are continually reversing the Social Security Disability ("SSD") decisions of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Hazel Strauss. In short, I discussed how the decisions of U.S. district court judges reveal that Strauss has exhibited a practice and pattern of denying SSD claims by failing to comply with applicable rules and regulations.

Not surprisingly, the latest reported decision involving Strauss is yet another reversal. In Pluck v. Astrue, 2011 WL 917654 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 9, 2011), U.S. District Court Judge Gleeson rejected Strauss’ decision, which followed the same practice and pattern of improperly rejecting and discrediting the opinions of treating physicians and testimony of claimants while improperly relying on medical expert’s testimony. Judge Gleeson ruled that Strauss selectively cherry picked evidence and cited only that evidence that contradicted the claimant’s case; ignored evidence that supported the claimant’s case; and misconstrued ambiguous evidence against the claimant. To make matters even worse, Judge Gleeson also found that Strauss violated the rules and regulations by rejecting the treating physicians’ opinions without contacting them, and relied on isolated events as an excuse to reject the claimant’s credibility. Notably, consistent with Strauss’ practice and pattern of wrongly denying claims, Judge Gleeson ruled that Strauss blindly adopted the testimony of the medical expert without explanation.

Why is it that federal district court judges keep rejecting Strauss decisions? According to Social Security’s latest disposition data, Strauss approved only 6 out of 60 cases. The national approval average for ALJs is in the 60% range, which is 600% higher than Strauss’ approval rate. This statistical data along with the federal court reversals showing that Strauss continues to violate the same rules and regulations is evidence that ALJ Strauss is biased against claimants or lacks a fundamental understanding of the rules and regulations.

In light of the statistics and federal court decisions, why hasn’t Social Security required Strauss to go for special training? How low does an approval rate have to be before action is taken? Does Social Security investigate an ALJ like Strauss when an approval rate is so aberrant, or where federal court decisions show that the ALJ repeatedly violates the same rules and regulations? While it appears that Social Security has not taken any action regarding these questions, it has seen fit to send me a threatening letter merely for raising these issues.

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