Wednesday, August 30, 2017

More Social Security Administration Judges Go To Jail


Former Social Security judge, 81, gets prison time, must repay more than $94M


(Above, Former SSA ALJ David Black Daugherty)
A former administrative law judge who took payments in more than 3,100 disability cases involving a now-fugitive lawyer was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to repay more than $94 million on Friday, August 25, 2017.
David Black Daugherty, 81, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, had admitted taking more than $609,000 cash in the scheme involving lawyer Eric Conn, according to a press release, the Lexington Herald-Leader and West Virginia Metro News. The sentence was the maximum for the two illegal gratuities charges to which Daugherty pleaded guilty.
The bribery scheme obligated the Social Security Administration to pay more than $550 million in lifetime benefits. U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves of Lexington, Kentucky, called the sentence a “sweet deal” and said it was “not anywhere near an appropriate punishment,” according to the Herald-Leader. Prosecutors said the sentence was appropriate given Daugherty’s age and health problems.
 
(Above Attorney , Eric Conn))
Conn pleaded guilty in March and fled on June 2. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in absentia. A person claiming to be Conn wrote an email saying he fled because he thought it was unfair that Daugherty and another judge convicted in connection with the scheme would get sentences that were not as long as the one he would potentially receive.
Reeves denied Daugherty’s request to delay the start date of his prison term, the Herald-Leader reports. Reeves said Daugherty already had time to prepare for the sentence. He also noted that Daugherty had made an unsuccessful suicide attempt after his guilty plea, and he didn’t want to give him a chance to try again.
Reeves ordered Daugherty to repay the government $609,000 for the bribes he collected, as well as $93.8 million for the improperly awarded benefits. Reeves said he doubted the money would be collected.
Another judge, Charlie Paul Andrus, was convicted for conspiracy to retaliate against, a Whistleblower, a former employee who provided information to investigators. He was the Social Security Regional Chief Judge. He was sentenced earlier this month to six months in prison, the Herald-Leader reported.

 
 (Above, Former SSA Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo)
 The both worked for Judge Frank Cristaudo. He was the Chief Judge over all the SSA Judges. They worked for Cristaudo. He has not been charged. Instead, he took credit for what Daugherty and Andrus did, and he gor promoted. What's wrong with that picture? Is that the new America Way? The workers get convicted and go to prison? And the Boss gets promoted and lives happily ever after?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SSA Plans To Scrap Treating Physician's Rule

New Rule May Worsen Backlog For Social Security Disability Claimants



By the time Stephenie Hashmi of Lenexa, Kansas, was in her mid-20s, she had achieved a lifelong dream: She was the charge nurse at one of Kansas City’s largest intensive care units. But even as she cared for patients, she realized something was off with her own health.
“I remember just feeling tired and feeling sick and hurting, and not knowing why my joints and body was hurting,” Hashmi says.
Hashmi was diagnosed with systemic lupus, a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs.
She’s had surgeries and treatments, but now, at age 41, Hashmi is often bedridden. She finally had to leave her job about 6 years ago, but when she applied for Social Security disability benefits, she was denied.

“I just started bawling. Because I felt like, if they looked at my records or read these notes, surely they would understand my situation,” Hashmi says.
Lisa Ekman, director of government affairs for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives, says Hashmi’s struggle with the application process is not unusual.
“It is not easy to get disability benefits. It’s a very complicated and difficult process,” Ekman says.
Right now, just about 45 percent of people who apply for Social Security disability benefits are accepted, and getting a hearing takes an average of nearly 600 days.
The Kansas City office’s average hearing time is closer to 500 days, but its approval rate is slight lower at 40 percent.
The Backlog started snowballing about 10 years ago, around the time Jason Fichtner became acting Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
He says that during the Great Recession, a lot of people who had disabilities applied but weren’t necessarily unable to work.
“But they’re on the margin,” Fichtner says. “They can work, but when the recession happens, those are the first people who tend to lose their jobs, and then they apply for disability insurance.”
There are now more than a million people across the country waiting for hearings. Adding to the strain, the Social Security Administration’s core operating budget has shrunk by 10 percent since 2010.
This spring, the SSA introduced changes to fight fraud and streamline the application process, including a new fraud-fighting measure that removes the special consideration given to a person’s long-time doctor.  (This is known as The Treating Physician's Rule)
Lisa Ekman says this is a mistake.
“Those changes would now put the evidence from a treating physician on the same weight as evidence from a medical consultant employed to do a one-time brief examination or a medical consultant they had do a review of the paper file and may have never examined the individual,” Ekman says.
She says this could lead to more denials for disabled people with complex conditions like lupus, multiple sclerosis or schizophrenia. These illnesses can affect patients in very different ways and may be hard for an outside doctor or nurse to assess.
She says more denials will lead to more appeals, which will only increase the backlog.
She is correct. The Treating Physician's Opinion is controlling.
https://judgelondonsteverson.me/2016/06/24/the-treating-physician-rule-is-controlling/
But former administrator Fichtner, now a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, says the SSA is obligated to weed out any fraud it can, including the admittedly rare cases of treating physicians tipping the scale in favor of their patients.
He says the SSA can still prioritize applicants.
“For patients that are really in dire condition and really have major disabilities, I don’t think they have to worry about this rule change,” Fichtner says.
He acknowledges, however, that the backlog needs attention and says the agency has safeguards to monitor whether the rule is working.
Back in her kitchen in Lenexa, Stephenie Hashmi’s husband Shawn prepares a family dinner she won’t be able to eat because she’s having problems with her esophagus.
Stephenie puts on a brave smile, but the progression of her illness and the ordeal with Social Security have made her increasingly pessimistic.
After several rejections, she’s now on her final appeal. Her hearing is scheduled for November – of   2018.