In an important case outside of Alabama, a federal appeals court said the Social Security Administration’s process that stripped social security beneficiaries of their disability benefits violated those beneficiaries’ constitutional due process rights. These social security recipients had been the victim of a fraud perpetrated by their lawyer, social security judges, and several doctors. Several years after it learned of the fraud, the Social Security Administration made approximately 1500 recipients re-prove their eligibility. These claimants had not themselves participated in the fraud, but had used the fugitive-lawyer and had the bad luck of having their case decided by the corrupt judge with the help of the disgraced doctors. In making the claimants reprove their case, the Social Security did so in a way that tied the claimants hands to such a degree that the Social Security Administration – according to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals – violated constitutional due process.
After he was arrested, a fugitive lawyer cut off his ankle monitor and fled to Honduras in an attempt to avoid prison time. While he was away, his former clients were trying to clean up his mess by reproving their disability sometimes as much as 10 years after their initial disability determination. For many of the victims of this fraud, the intervening years had caused crucial medical records to be destroyed, witnesses disappeared, and people passed away. In essence, much of the evidence needed to prove they were disabled was lost.
Social Security had some of that evidence but refused to let claimants use it because it was tainted by the lawyer’s and others’ fraud. The 6th Circuit ruled that the Social Security Administration was using a blunt tool where they should have been more discerning. The categorical exclusion of the medical evidence without looking at whether some of it was helpful, and without consideration of whether fraud was involved in any particular claimant’s case violated the rules of due process.
As it stands, over 200 of those social security claimants who appealed their cases are in line to get a new hearing. However, those new hearings are unlikely to happen anytime soon. The Social Security Administration might try to further appeal the 6th Circuit decision – either by asking the entire 6th Circuit (instead of the 3 judge panel that decided the case) to re-hear the case. Or, the Social Security Administration could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case. Either way, it must decide whether it will do so by the end of January 2019 and if it takes either action the claimants cases, and restoration of their benefits is likely to be delayed by many, many months.
The 6th Circuit case is another example that a social security case is not necessarily over after the Social Security’s Administrative Law Judge rules against a claimant. There are often important issues of law at stake that may require an appeal of the Social Security Administration’s decision to a United States District Court or beyond. Browne House Law has one of the 200+ cases affected by the 6th Circuit and is ready to talk to you about prosecuting your disability case to the fullest.