Social Security Disability Fraud Investigations

The Social Security Administration uses Cooperative Disability Investigation (“CDI) Units to investigate potential fraud.  The CDI units work with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) as well as state and local law enforcement agencies.  Such investigations take place during the entire application process, and also during continuing disability reviews.  Investigations can be generated by state agency employees, SSA employees, private citizens, anonymous sources, and law enforcement agencies.  During the investigation, the CDI Unit can interview the application, interview third parties, conduct surveillance, and/or examine the claimant’s social media accounts.  It appears such investigations are expanding.


Severe Impairment(s)

In my prior post I discussed step one of the sequential evaluation process. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has established a five step sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled.  At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity.  At step two, SSA must determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment that is “severe” or a combination of impairments that is severe. SSA defines “severe” as an impairment that significantly limits the claimant’s ability to perform basic work activities.  If the individual does not have a severe impairment, or combination of impairments that is severe, he/she is not disabled.

The Hamilton Firm handles disability claims in North Georgia and Tennessee.  We are based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Poll: Overwhelming Majority of Voters Support SSDI Program

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A new poll, conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies, finds the vast majority of likely voters support Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and believe that Congress should target other areas of the government when proposing cuts to balance the federal budget.

After months of combating unfounded media and political attacks against the SSDI benefits program, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) commissioned a survey to ask Americans if they believe SSDI should receive budget cuts, or remain intact for hard-working citizens who never expected to experience a disability.

The results – 83% of Americans polled support SSDI, including 75% of Republicans voters, while 77% think Congress should look to cut other programs in order to reach a balanced budget.

“The findings are clear and bipartisan — Americans overwhelmingly support Disability Insurance,” said Stefan Hankin, President of Lincoln Park Strategies. “To cut to the chase, my recommendation to elected leaders in either party is that attacking SSDI is a mistake.”

Among the key findings of the poll:

83% of voters – including 75% of Republicans – agree it would be unfair to cut SSDI benefits to working Americans who have paid into SSDI
80% of survey respondents support the SSDI benefits program
Only 8% of voters polled believe SSDI should be cut
77% of those polled agree that Congress should focus on programs other than SSDI to make budget cuts
73% support SSDI program after hearing allegations that the program is another government handout program

The poll sampled 1,000 adult Americans who were interviewed by telephone from September 29 – October 2, 2012. The error margin for this random probability sample is +/-3.1% at the 95% confidence level. That is to say, if this survey were replicated, the aggregate results would be within this margin in 19 out of 20 cases. Interviews were conducted with respondents using both landline and mobile telephones. Gender breakdown: 471 men were surveyed, 530 women. Party ID breakdown: 277 Republican, 307 Independent and 348 Democrat. Ideological breakdown: 401 Conservative, 351 Moderate and 192 Liberal.

SOURCE Lincoln Park Strategies

PR Newswire (

What can happen when you’re hurt on the job in Tennessee

Claimant’s with RSD and/or CRPS

For claimants with RSD or CRPS, it is important to examine SSR 03-2p to help prove disability.

If you need help with your claim, click here.

Smoking and Disability

Years ago I had a COPD claimant who was a heavy smoker.  At his Social Security Disability Hearing in Chattanooga, the Judge told me repeatedly that he did not think it was appropriate to award SSDI benefits to a claimant who smoked and was disabled due to COPD.  I managed to convince the Judge to rule in our favor because I felt like it would be inappropriate for an ALJ to deny such a claim unless the condition was caused by drug or alcohol.  This week I read an article in the NOSSCR publication (Volume 33, No. 12 -December 2011) addressing this issue.  In Deso v. Astrue, 2011 U.S. Dist. Lexis 137646 (D.Vt. Nov. 29, 2011), the district court held that “it was legal error for the ALJ to base his negative credibility determination primarily on failure to stop smoking. . . .”  The District Court relied upon a 7th Circuit decision in stating: “This is an unreliable basis on which to rest a credibility determination.”

Another related issue to credibility is non-compliance. (See 20 CFR 404.1530). The above referenced edition of NOSSCR Social Security Forum also discussed the Shramek v. Apfel, 225 F.3d 809 (7th Cir. 2000) decision, which basically states that there must be evidence to suggest that if the claimant stopped smoking he/she would no longer be disabled.

On the issue of “severity” and smoking, see Waters v. Astrue, No. 5:10-cv-110 (D.Vt. May 17, 2011).

If you are disabled due to COPD and you would like to talk to a Georgia and/or Tennessee Disability Lawyer, feel free to contact my office.  My contact information can be found by clicking the following link:  The Hamilton Firm

Evaluating disability claims for Young Adults (18-25)

SSR 11-2p provides excellent guidance for evaluating claims in young adult cases.  The Ruling can be found at