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SSDI claimants, citing judge bias for denials, win new hearings

Applying for and winning Social Security disability insurance benefits is no easy row to hoe. That's a point that most readers of this blog already understand. The administrative law judges who handle claims routinely deny them for the slightest technicality. Appeals may follow.

The condition for which benefits may be required and the process for getting approved for them are typically measured in years. The help of an attorney may be one way applicants in Los Angeles can feel confident that their situations are getting timely consideration.

Considering how long most claims for Social Security disability take, it becomes all the more frustrating to learn when courts determine that denials have resulted due to bias on the part of the SSA administrative law judges. That's the finding that was reached recently in a class-action case out of Brooklyn.

The claim in the case was that five judges handling disability claims appeals for residents of Queens between 2008 and today allowed their biases to affect their decisions. The nature of the biases isn't clear. As a result, more than 4,000 individuals allege they were wrongly denied benefits.

A class-action suit was launched by the Urban Law Center, and negotiations led to a proposed settlement. It is that agreement that was approved by the federal court.

Under terms of the deal, the five judges will be required to undergo retraining. Their determinations will also be subject to monitoring for the next 30 months.

For the thousands of disabled claimants who have endured financial hardship as a result, the decision means they now have a fresh opportunity to have their cases reconsidered.

Source: TimesLedger.com, "Court settlement gives 4,000 Queens residents new disability claim hearings," Oct. 18, 2013

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