A class-action lawsuit filed on April 12, 2011 in Brooklyn alleges that five of the law judges with the Queens Social Security disability office are biased against disability applicants. The office has long been known to be difficult, denying about 50% of disability cases (the highest percentage in New York state), compared to an average of 37% in Manhattan, 33% in the Bronx, and 14.5% in Brooklyn. The five judges named in the lawsuit, on average, denied 63% of their cases.
Beyond the high denial percentage, the lawsuit claims that the judges discriminate against applicants, especially those who are poor or foreign-born. It is said that many applicants leave their hearings in tears, and that the judges use aggressive, or openly combative, questioning techniques. Jim Walden, a partner at the firm handling the suit, says that the five law judges at the Queens office are not handling the cases fairly and are "being extremely heavy-handed with some of the most vulnerable people you could ever meet." He explains that the judges "make the same legal and factual errors again and again," and describes the problems as "routine and systematic."
The lawsuit seeks to keep the five judges from hearing any more cases and to annul all denials of benefits made by them since 2005.
The New York disability lawyers at Markhoff & Mittman, P.C. will be interested to see how this resolves, as it could impact thousands of disabled workers in NYC.