by Susan Golden
It seems as if we are always hearing stories about people who are defrauding the Social Security Disability (“SSD”) system. We read about it in the newspapers, and we watch it on the news. Even 60 Minutes and 20/20 have devoted entire segments to those stories. While there may be a small minority of people who improperly receive SSD benefits, most people who apply are honest and hard working individuals, who would much rather continue to work if they could. However, what the media is not reporting is how the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) is defrauding us.
The SSA disability process is getting more corrupt by the day. The SSA does whatever it wants, without any repercussions, without any real checks and balances. When someone files an application for SSD benefits, his or her local office processes it. The local offices constantly lose important paperwork, which holds up the applications, or even deny applications based upon the local office’s own errors and incompetence. When they do eventually process the SSD application, the local office sends it out to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, to review the medical evidence. Much of the time, the local office does not forward all the paperwork, including medical records that the claimant has submitted, creating more problems for the claimant.
The biggest joke of all is the “reviewing” of the claim by the “analyst” at the NYS office. They don’t follow their own rules and regulations, important medical evidence is misplaced, or worse yet, purged from the record, in order to provide them with a specious basis for denial. The State agency also fabricates communications with treating doctors.
Perhaps the greatest injustice of all is the State agency’s practice of scheduling claimants to attend Consultative Exams (“CE’s”), which are frequently performed by unqualified doctors, who usually misrepresent their findings. As a result of the fictitious CE findings, claimants are typically denied SSD benefits. Importantly, the SSA’s own rules state that a treating doctor should perform any CE, although the State agency rarely, if ever, complies with those rules.
To avoid being denied SSD benefits for supposedly “failing to cooperate,” which is the SSA’s practice if the claimant does not attend the CE, we have advised our clients to video tape their CE’s. There is no Social Security rule or regulation that prohibits recording of a CE, which has become necessary since the doctors blatantly lie about what occurs during the exam. Notably, the New York State agency overseeing workers compensations (“WC”) benefits has a rule explicitly stating that a claimant can video tape an independent medical exam (“IME”), which is equivalent to the SSA CE, precisely to guard against fictitious exam findings. It defies logic for a claimant with both an SSD and WC claim to be allowed to tape an IME but not a CE.
One of our clients went to his CE today, and recorded the visit. However, the person at the CE receptionist desk from Industrial Medicine Associates (“IMA”) told our client that they would not allow him to record the CE, and asked him to leave their office. It was the IMA doctor contracted by the SSA, not the claimant, who refused to proceed with the CE. The claimant recorded the IMA receptionist saying they would claim that the claimant failed to show up for his CE, which is an unmitigated lie. In fact, it seems that IMA’s claiming that a claimant failed to appear for his CE is an act of fraud that must be investigated by the SSA Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”).
The sad fact is there apparently is not a damn thing that can be done about these fraudulent practices. Over the years, we have shown how CE reports are replete with medical findings that could not possibly have been made, and have requested that the matter be referred to the OIG, but to no avail. Therefore, claimants will most likely continue to be wrongly denied SSD benefits for purportedly not attending the CE, or attending one that culminates in a report containing fraudulent findings.
The SSA should help the disabled, especially the homeless, which increasingly includes many veterans. Instead, the SSA only hurts and demeans the people who need help the most; those who can no longer work and have no money to survive. It is a travesty and disgrace. When will the media do a story about this?