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The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) is reinstituting the reconsideration stage in New York come January 1, 2019. Close to 90% of claims are denied on reconsideration, so why is it being restored? Given that the SSA has been passing rules to make it more difficult to obtain benefits, such as eliminating the treating physician rule, logic dictates that reinstituting reconsideration is intended to do the same.
Here is a recent example of what can be expected from an extra round of State agency review. I represent a 58 year old claimant who had worked as a school nurse for 27 years. A pain management specialist, internist, and pulmonologist each concluded the claimant had a less than sedentary work capacity. The claimant’s pulmonary function tests each show she met a listing.
On January 9, 2018, “L. Samuel,” (the State agency doctors are afraid to disclose their first names) a State agency internist, concluded that the claimant was limited to lifting 10 pounds, and was credible. Based on that opinion, the State agency analyst advised approving the claim. However, it was decided that there was a vocational“error” in applying the medical-vocational rules. The State agency then had Samuel redo his report two weeks later.
During the two week interim period, there was absolutely nothing added to the claim file – no medical evidence, no financial evidence, no vocational evidence. Nonetheless, based on the identical information, without any explanation whatsoever, Samuel now concluded that the claimant could lift twice as much, 20 pounds, and for some reason, was no longer credible.
Subsequently, an internist from the SSA reviewed the medical records, and rejected Samuel’s attempt to “redo” his conclusions. When brought to the attention of the ALJ assigned to case, the claim was approved without a hearing. I suggested that L. Samuel be referred to the Office of the Inspector General to account for his fraud, but I am confidant that nothing will be done.
The above illustrates what happens when the State agency effectively reconsiders a claim. Although I would not anticipate that each reconsideration will result in fraud, this serves as evidence that State agency doctors are partial, which serves the interest in the SSA reducing the number of approvals, and increasing delays for those who eventually do get approved.
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