As anyone who has gone through the process can attest to, applying for Social Security disability benefits can be an arduous and frustrating process. Prospective applicants often face the daunting task of navigating through several procedural hurdles and seemingly never-ending roadblocks ― just to be told their claim has been denied.
However, a recently proposed settlement in federal court has given thousands of New Yorkers a glimmer of hope as the settlement may permit applicants new hearings on their previously denied disability claims.
Queens disability benefits lawsuit
The proposed settlement, which was filed in Brooklyn federal court, would resolve a lawsuit that claimed five administrative law judges (ALJ) failed to give fair hearing to individuals filing for Social Security disability benefits in Queens. In addition to the high rejection rates, it was alleged that the judges at issue would be unforgiving in their questioning of applicants ― often leaving the applicants in tears.
According to settlement documents, an estimated 4,000 applicants whose disability claims were rejected since 2008 by one of the ALJs in question would be permitted to have new hearings before different judges. The same five ALJs would be also retrained by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and their rulings monitored for 30 months under the settlement. Furthermore, the settlement calls for the SSA to establish new policies to protect against bias in the future.
This lawsuit, and corresponding settlement, likely comes as little surprise for many of the disability applicants in Queens as this office has historically had a very high rate of denied disability claims. For instance, plaintiffs is the case recently cited SSA data for the fact that the Queens office denied nearly 49 percent of claims between 2005 and 2009 ― compared to a mere 19 percent denial rate in Brooklyn.
While the current settlement has been approved by the plaintiffs and the SSA, it will not become official until approved by the federal judge.
Denied Social Security Disability benefits
As the recent proposed settlement illustrates, it is not unusual for disability claims to be denied, especially when the application is first filed. Given the strict standards for qualifying for disability benefits it is hardly shocking for such high denial rates, but it does demonstrate the importance of consulting with a knowledgeable Social Security disability attorney to ensure your claim is properly filed.
If your initial disability claim has been rejected, there is still hope. But, an applicant only has 60 days to file a reconsideration request after their initial applications has been denied ― meaning time is of the essence. Accordingly, if your disability claims has been denied, it is important to speak with an experience SSDI attorney to be advised of your rights and options.