The Padro settlement does not call for any of the Queens Five to be removed. Moreover, all the settlement does in essence is to require the Queens Five to follow the law, which is what they have always been charged with doing. Therefore, SSD claimants may still have to appeal the Queens Five decisions in federal court. At least one U.S. District Court Judge, Dora L. Irizarry, has finally explicitly stated that the biased decisions of the Queens Five cannot continue.
In Fernandez v. Astrue, 2013 WL 1291284 (E.D.N.Y. March 28, 2013), Judge Irizarry reviewed a claim that had been denied both by ALJ Fier and then ALJ Strauss. As usual, both Fier and Strauss denied SSD benefits by refusing to comply with the rules and regulations for reviewing SSD claims, in particular, relying on patently erroneous reasons for elevating the opinions of non-treating doctors over the treating doctors. Judge Irizarry found ALJ Strauss’ reasons for relying on the hearing medical expert “troubling” and “egregious,” and ordered
Social Security to award SSD benefits.
Fernandez, 2013 WL 1291284 at *21.
Judge Irizarry’s comments confirm exactly what I have been arguing in federal court and to the Appeals Council for years – the Queens Five use the same flawed analytical frameworks that have resulted in wrongful denial of benefits, remands, and unnecessarily protracted administrative proceedings. Hopefully, the other District Court judges will follow suit, and start awarding SSD benefits rather than remanding the decisions of the Queens Five for a “do over.”