Throw out the bathwater, keep the baby: a response to recent social security disability investigations

A U.S. Senate committee report released last week brought to light alleged misconduct by an attorney and judge in the area along the West Virginia and Kentucky border. The report exposed abuse of the disability approval process utilizing manufactured medical evidence. The inappropriate dealings led to an approval rating by the judge nearing 100 percent. According to DisabilityJudges.com, the national average approval rate is 46 percent, while the average in North Carolina is 51 percent.

Also last week, CBS' "60 Minutes" aired a story focusing on the case which raised further questions about the current state of the disability system. While we applaud the exposure of this alleged misconduct, we would echo the old idiom, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!"

The "60 Minutes" story suggested that such abuse of the system extends beyond the case in West Virginia; that individuals truly not eligible for benefits are receiving approvals in many jurisdictions across the country. While alarming, this is not our experience. We see more individuals deserving of benefits being denied - sometimes multiple times - than people with illegitimate claims receiving approval.

Through generalizing the unfortunate actions of a few, the "60 Minutes" broadcast, and several other media reports recently garnering the public's attention, paint a misleading picture of the Social Security disability programs as a whole. We believe that these programs are not just important for our society, but critical for those individuals facing serious illnesses and disabilities (the baby, if you will). It is our hope that those practicing inappropriately (the bathwater) can be held accountable without derailing the system for the thousands of deserving and needful individuals applying for disability benefits each month.

We cannot speak for other attorneys or representatives, but the Social Security Disability attorneys at Crumley Roberts operate under the highest ethical standards. We represent only those individuals we believe have legitimate claims, based on our years of experience working with the Social Security Administration. Our experienced attorneys and case managers provide personal care to help our clients navigate a notoriously confusing and frustrating process. We take pride in fighting hard to ensure that our clients receive their due benefits in a just and timely manner.

Phil Kearns is the Social Security Disability Practice Group Leader and Intake Director at Crumley Roberts and is a graduate of Wake Forest University (undergraduate) and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

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