Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hoppenfeld Bias

The Appeals Council rejected ALJ Hoppenfeld’s denial of Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits to a claimant for the second time, and ordered that another ALJ hear the case. However, the Appeals Council stated that it "appeared" Hoppenfeld did not display bias on the issue of fibromyalgia because I had the opportunity to cross examine the medical expert. That assertion is a disgraceful misrepresentation of the facts.

I never contended that I was denied the right to cross the examine Dr. Alfred Jonas, who essentially testified that fibromyalgia does not exist. Rather, I argued that one of the indicia of Hoppenfeld’s fibromyalgia bias is that she precluded me from asking Jonas questions concerning the basis for his contention that fibromyalgia does not exist. The Appeals Council’s conflation of the issue is especially troubling in light of the pending Bailey class action, because it shows that the Appeals Council cannot be relied upon to police ALJ bias.

To the Appeals Council’s credit, it referred the fibromyalgia bias matter to “another component” of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), which is basically an admission that the Appeals Council lacks the ability to investigate bias adequately. Furthermore, while the issue of fibromyalgia bias is intricately interwoven into the claimant’s claim, nothing regarding the bias investigation has been incorporated into the claim file.

The issue of fibromyalgia bias is central to Ms. Thelot’s case, which will include another hearing on remand with medical experts. Accordingly, it is essential that your investigation, which the Order references, be included in the claimant’s efolder. For the reasons stated above, and detailed in my prior letters to you, it is imperative that your investigation be added to the efolder. Otherwise, the entire agency process for addressing bias will be demonstrably evasive and unresponsive. Please provide me with a copy, or add it to the efolder, as soon as possible.

Anyone with a fibromyalgia claim before Hoppenfeld should carefully cross examine the medical experts, their backgrounds, and testimony from other reported cases. Whose claim was denied should raise the issue of bias before it is deemed waived

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