Report: Charleston judge ‘rubber stamped’ disability claims

June 10, 2014 by Dave Boucher

By DAVE BOUCHER

CAPITOL BUREAU CHIEF

A Charleston Social Security judge is accused of rubber stamping more than $2.5 billion in lifetime social security benefits since 2005, according to a congressional report released today.

Administrative law Judge Judge Harry Taylor reportedly approved 94 percent of the cases presented before him between 2005 and 2013, according to an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“When ALJ Taylor held hearings, the review found that he never elicited testimony from medical experts,” states the report, citing a a formal review from 2011.

“The report found that an ‘overreaching problem’ with the reviewed decisions ‘was a lack of rationale. … There would be little evaluation of the evidence and no function by function assessment of the claimant’[sic] abilities.’”

Taylor is one of four administrative law judges specifically noted in the report, created by the Republicans on the committee. Democratic staff on the committee say Taylor and the other three judges are the exception to the norm, reports The Associated Press.

Of the 8,77o people with claims before Taylor between 2005 and 2013, Taylor approved 8,277 cases, the report states.

“He had an overall allowance rate of nearly 94 percent and awarded benefits to nearly 6,000 people without a hearing,” the report states.

The congressional committee is reviewing the report this morning.

Taylor, who’s served as an administrative law judge in Charleston since 1988, described what he said was his judgement process in a statement sent to the committee.

“I have always been a person driven to work. With very few hobbies except those of my children, my dedication and attention has always been on my work days, nights , and even weekends,” Taylor said at the end of the four-page statement.

An administrative law judge in the federal Social Security Administration hears appeals of benefits denied to those applying for benefits. The claimants must have already lost an appeal before a local field office before receiving a ruling from the administrative law judge.

Taylor is also accused of leaving an inappropriate message on a female employee’s voicemail, conducting “sloppy work” and routinely falling asleep during hearings and in his office.

“(An administrative inspector) also recounted numerous other sleeping incidents witnessed by other SSA employees and court officials,” the report states.

“He recounted one employee’s statement that ‘Judge Taylor’s snoring was the subject of discussion/humor among the writers whose offices are nearby’ and that he could ‘be heard snoring just about every other day.’”

Taylor was eventually suspended for 14 days.

Since the suspension Taylor is accused of more inappropriate conduct toward female employees and more sleeping in court, in addition to questionable rulings, the report states. There is an open investigation by the Social Security Administration.

“ALJ Taylor’s high decision total, high number of decisions without hearings, and excessive allowance rate, combined with his personal misconduct, demonstrate that ALJ Taylor should not be deciding disability cases,” the report states.

“However, ALJ Taylor continues to decide a full caseload, and award s benefits to nearly every claimant before him .”

 

This report comes months after a U.S. Senate report that said Huntington retired administrative law Judge David Daugherty colluded with lawyer Eric Conn to approve more than 1,800 between 2006 and 2010. Conn received more than $4.5 million in fees from the Social Security Administration heard by Daugherty during the same time period, according to the report.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oka., said Tuesday no criminal charges have been filed against Conn or Daugherty.

This is a developing story. Check back at www.dailymailwv.com throughout the day as more information becomes available.

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