Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SSA Proposes To Scrap The Treating Physician's Rule. Backlog Of Applicants For Benefits Expected To Worsen.

New Rule May Worsen Backlog For Social Security Disability Claimants



By the time Stephenie Hashmi of Lenexa, Kansas, was in her mid-20s, she had achieved a lifelong dream: She was the charge nurse at one of Kansas City’s largest intensive care units. But even as she cared for patients, she realized something was off with her own health.
“I remember just feeling tired and feeling sick and hurting, and not knowing why my joints and body was hurting,” Hashmi says.
Hashmi was diagnosed with systemic lupus, a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs.
She’s had surgeries and treatments, but now, at age 41, Hashmi is often bedridden. She finally had to leave her job about 6 years ago, but when she applied for Social Security disability benefits, she was denied.

“I just started bawling. Because I felt like, if they looked at my records or read these notes, surely they would understand my situation,” Hashmi says.
Lisa Ekman, director of government affairs for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives, says Hashmi’s struggle with the application process is not unusual.
“It is not easy to get disability benefits. It’s a very complicated and difficult process,” Ekman says.
Right now, just about 45 percent of people who apply for Social Security disability benefits are accepted, and getting a hearing takes an average of nearly 600 days.
The Kansas City office’s average hearing time is closer to 500 days, but its approval rate is slight lower at 40 percent.
The Backlog started snowballing about 10 years ago, around the time Jason Fichtner became acting Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
He says that during the Great Recession, a lot of people who had disabilities applied but weren’t necessarily unable to work.
“But they’re on the margin,” Fichtner says. “They can work, but when the recession happens, those are the first people who tend to lose their jobs, and then they apply for disability insurance.”
There are now more than a million people across the country waiting for hearings. Adding to the strain, the Social Security Administration’s core operating budget has shrunk by 10 percent since 2010.
This spring, the SSA introduced changes to fight fraud and streamline the application process, including a new fraud-fighting measure that removes the special consideration given to a person’s long-time doctor.  (This is known as The Treating Physician's Rule)
Lisa Ekman says this is a mistake.
“Those changes would now put the evidence from a treating physician on the same weight as evidence from a medical consultant employed to do a one-time brief examination or a medical consultant they had do a review of the paper file and may have never examined the individual,” Ekman says.
She says this could lead to more denials for disabled people with complex conditions like lupus, multiple sclerosis or schizophrenia. These illnesses can affect patients in very different ways and may be hard for an outside doctor or nurse to assess.
She says more denials will lead to more appeals, which will only increase the backlog. 
She is correct. The Treating Physician's Opinion is controlling.
https://judgelondonsteverson.me/2016/06/24/the-treating-physician-rule-is-controlling/
But former administrator Fichtner, now a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, says the SSA is obligated to weed out any fraud it can, including the admittedly rare cases of treating physicians tipping the scale in favor of their patients.
He says the SSA can still prioritize applicants.
“For patients that are really in dire condition and really have major disabilities, I don’t think they have to worry about this rule change,” Fichtner says.
He acknowledges, however, that the backlog needs attention and says the agency has safeguards to monitor whether the rule is working.
Back in her kitchen in Lenexa, Stephenie Hashmi’s husband Shawn prepares a family dinner she won’t be able to eat because she’s having problems with her esophagus.
Stephenie puts on a brave smile, but the progression of her illness and the ordeal with Social Security have made her increasingly pessimistic.
After several rejections, she’s now on her final appeal. Her hearing is scheduled for November – of   2018.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

ALJ Dave Dauherty Was Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo's Secret Weapon



The 81-year-old David Black Daugherty pleaded guilty Friday May 13, 2017 in federal court in Lexington to two counts of taking illegal gratuities. Daugherty agreed to pay the government $609,000 as part of his plea.
                                       (Above, see Judge David Black Daugherty)
But Judge Daugherty worked for Frank Cristaudo, who was the Chief Administrative Law Judge. (CALJ). 
                                      (Above, see SSA CALJ Frank Cristaudo)

They both worked for Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue.
                                 (Above, see SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue)
Judge Daugherty was working to eliminate the "back log".
The Chief Administrative Law Judge had and has day-to-day oversight of all of SSA's's hearing operations.
Judge Cristaudo testified before Congress that he wanted to implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate the backlog of hearings. By eliminating the backlog, he would improve hearing office productivity and the timeliness of SSA hearings and decisions.
Judges like ALJ Dave Daugherty were at the heart of his operation. He testified that he would be monitoring the workloads of these Judges and their cases carefully.
He had selected a number of excellent judges including Judge Daugherty. He needed more judges like Judge Daugherty who were well-suited to SSA's type of work - judges who were capable of thriving under the workload demands of SSA's high-volume, electronic hearing operation. Judge Daugherty was the most prolific high producer that he had.
After successfully eliminating SSA's 1,000 or more day-old cases in FY 2007, he focused on reducing the 900 or more day-old cases by the end of FY 2008.  He testified that he believed a backlog of aged cases interfered with the normal hearing office workflow. Productivity was up because of Judge Daugherty and others who decided cases without holding Hearings.  The new judges  were trained by the highest-producing judges in SSA's ALJ corps, judges like Judge Dave Daugherty.
The complete text of Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo's testimony can be read at:
(See   https://www.ssa.gov/legislation/testimony_091608.html)
Wasteful and fraudulent disability payments are well-documented problems, but a congressional probe has found that they often result when administrative law judges (ALJ) in the federal bureaucracy approve previously rejected claims.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) discovered deficiencies in appeals decisions from every ALJ it has reviewed since 2011, according to a report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
All 48 of the individual reviews found the ALJs wrongly evaluated applicants’ ability to work and discounted drug addiction or alcoholism, among other missteps.
Congressional investigators built on a June 2014 report that conducted three case studies of ALJs who "rubber-stamped" almost every appeal they evaluated. By granting disability benefits to just 100 people who aren’t actually disabled, the trio added $30 million to the federal budget.
The 1,400 judges who handled disability appeals handed out benefits to more than 3.2 million people between 2005 and 2013, granting the requests of more than half of all applicants at a cost of nearly $1 trillion.
What’s more, investigators discovered 191 judges had approved 85 percent or more of the appealed applications that came across their desks.
The only way SSA gauged the performance of the judges was by adding up the number of cases a judge oversaw in a given time period, according to May 2013 testimony by Frank Cristaudo, a former chief administrative law judge.
Another top judge testified in October 2013 that granting more than 75 or 80 percent of appeals should raise a “red flag” about the reliability of those decisions.
But awarding benefits takes “significantly less time” than denying them, the report said.

The probe uncovered a 2012 internal review in which SSA found that the more cases judges had to decide, the less reliable their decisions were. That review found the overall accuracy of appeals decisions began to fall once judges ruled on 600 or more cases a year.
Even so, SSA allowed dozens of judges to decide more than 1,000 cases every year, the report said.
Without conducting any research into how long appeals decisions should actually take, Cristaudo enforced policies that compelled judges to process between 500 and 700 cases every year, the report said.
SSA allowed “overwhelming evidence of incompetence” among its judges to continue by focusing solely on pushing as many cases as possible through the system, regardless of whether they were handled correctly, the report concluded.
 But Frank Cristaudo, was Chief Administrative Law Judge. (CALJ) when Judge Daugherty was working to eliminate the "back log".
The Chief Administrative Law Judge had and has day-to-day oversight of all of SSA's's hearing operation.
Judge Cristaudo testified before Congress that he wanted to implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate the backlog of hearings. By eliminating the backlog, he would improve hearing office productivity and the timeliness of SSA hearings and decisions.
Judges like ALJ Dave Daugherty were at the heart of his operation. He testified that he would be monitoring the workloads of these Judges and their cases carefully.
He had selected a number of excellent judges including Judge Daugherty. He needed more judges like Judge Daugherty who were well-suited to SSA's type of work - judges who were capable of thriving under the workload demands of SSA's high-volume, electronic hearing operation. Judge Daugherty was the most prolific high producer that he had.
After successfully eliminating SSA's 1,000 or more day-old cases in FY 2007, he focused on reducing the 900 or more day-old cases by the end of FY 2008.  He testified that he believed a backlog of aged cases interfered with the normal hearing office workflow. Productivity was up because of Judge Daugherty and others who decided cases without holding Hearings.  The new judges  were trained by the highest-producing judges in SSA's ALJ corps, like Judge Dave Daugherty.
The complete text of Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo's testimony can be read at:
(See   https://www.ssa.gov/legislation/testimony_091608.html)

SSA Bribery Judge Was Social Security's Highest Producer

A former Social Security Administration judge from Huntington has pleaded guilty to taking more than $600,000 in bribes in cases involving clients of Kentucky lawyer Eric C. Conn, who is facing prison time for a scheme to defraud the government of nearly $600 million in disability payments.
The 81-year-old David Black Daugherty pleaded guilty Friday May 13, 2017 in federal court in Lexington to two counts of taking illegal gratuities. Daugherty agreed to pay the government $609,000 as part of his plea.
                                       (Above, see Judge David Black Daugherty)
But Judge Daugherty worked for Frank Cristaudo, who was the Chief Administrative Law Judge. (CALJ). 
                                      (Above, see SSA CALJ Frank Cristaudo)

They both worked for Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue.
                                 (Above, see SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue)
Judge Daugherty was working to eliminate the "back log".
The Chief Administrative Law Judge had and has day-to-day oversight of all of SSA's's hearing operations.
Judge Cristaudo testified before Congress that he wanted to implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate the backlog of hearings. By eliminating the backlog, he would improve hearing office productivity and the timeliness of SSA hearings and decisions.
Judges like ALJ Dave Daugherty were at the heart of his operation. He testified that he would be monitoring the workloads of these Judges and their cases carefully.
He had selected a number of excellent judges including Judge Daugherty. He needed more judges like Judge Daugherty who were well-suited to SSA's type of work - judges who were capable of thriving under the workload demands of SSA's high-volume, electronic hearing operation. Judge Daugherty was the most prolific high producer that he had.
After successfully eliminating SSA's 1,000 or more day-old cases in FY 2007, he focused on reducing the 900 or more day-old cases by the end of FY 2008.  He testified that he believed a backlog of aged cases interfered with the normal hearing office workflow. Productivity was up because of Judge Daugherty and others who decided cases without holding Hearings.  The new judges  were trained by the highest-producing judges in SSA's ALJ corps, judges like Judge Dave Daugherty.
The complete text of Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo's testimony can be read at:
(See   https://www.ssa.gov/legislation/testimony_091608.html)
Daugherty faces a maximum sentence of four years. Sentencing is scheduled for August 25, 2017.
The case involved thousands of clients of Conn, who also has pleaded guilty. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July and faces 12 years in prison. Conn has agreed to pay $5.7 million to the government and pay $46.5 million to the Social Security Administration.
The investigation focused on actions between 2006 and 2011, a time when Conn earned millions with Social Security cases and Daugherty became one of the most prolific administrative law judges both in number of cases over which he presided and the staggering rate at which he approved benefits, which neared almost 100 percent. He was a "high producer" for Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue.
Conn promoted himself as "Mr. Social Security" and built a large practice from his offices along U.S. 23 in Floyd County, Kentucky, where a replica of the Lincoln Memorial still stands in the parking lot.
Daugherty allegedly assigned Conn's cases to himself in Huntington against court policy and communicated with Conn as to what types of medical records he would need to have to approve benefits in the cases. In his criminal plea agreement, Attorney Conn said Judge Daugherty in October 2004 asked him for $5,000 to pay for addiction treatment for a family member, the Herald-Leader reported. Daugherty confirmed that account in his plea Friday, the newspaper said.
Conn then began to pay Daugherty $10,000 each month, according to the plea agreement.
At one time, Daugherty was approving benefits at a 99.7 percent rate, while the national average was below 70 percent.
The scheme came to national attention in 2013 when two employees at the Huntington Social Security office, along with some of Conn's employees, testified before the U.S. Senate after a two-year Homeland Security investigation.
A congressional report showed Daugherty awarded $2.5 billion in lifetime benefits to Conn's clients and others during his final years on the bench.
Beyond the abuse of federal dollars, the case continues to affect hundreds of people in western West Virginia and eastern Kentucky who went to Conn's firm to seek disability benefits. Once criminal charges were filed against the lawyer, the Social Security Administration reviewed about 1,500 cases handled by Conn, and lawyers estimate about 800 people have lost their benefits.
Daugherty was suspended when the allegations surfaced and was allowed to retire. The West Virginia Bar Association stripped Daugherty of his law license in 2014, and he relocated to Myrtle Beach shortly thereafter. But SSA cannot take his pension away.
The Huntington native had been an administrative judge for Social Security since 1990, following a varied judicial and political career in Cabell County.
The son of Judge Russell Daugherty, he was a graduate of Marshall University and the West Virginia College of Law and was elected to the House of Delegates from Cabell County in 1968 and 1970. He served as a circuit court judge from 1978 until 1984.

Organized Crime at The SSA

U.S.: Ex-Judge Pleads Guilty in Major Social Security Fraud Case



Social Security Administration Judge David Daugerty, (USALJ Ret.), now a former judge pleaded guilty on May 13, 2017 for taking money from a Kentucky lawyer, Eric Conn,  to approve hundreds of fraudulent disability cases in a scheme that stripped the government of more than US$550 million in disability payments.
Social Security Administration OfficeU.S. Social Security Administration (Photo: SSA-OIG)Judge David B. Daugherty, 81, who was once an administrative law judge (ALJ), approved more than 1,700 bogus disability cases filed by Eric C. Conn, a lawyer in eastern Kentucky, obligating the government to pay out more than half a billion dollars in lifetime benefits.
Conn, who dubbed himself “Mr. Social Security,” collected more than $7 million in payments for filing bogus applications from 2004 to 2011, and paid Daugherty $609,000 during that time.
"This admission that a judge in a position of trust took over a half-million dollars in cash from a crooked lawyer is outrageous," said Sam Johnson, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"This case proves once again that more needs to be done to stop disability fraud across America. I’m committed to working with my colleagues to help protect taxpayer dollars and prevent disability fraud."
Conn pleaded guilty earlier this year for submitting false IQ tests and having a doctor who worked for him stamp bogus medical diagnosis for many of his clients.
He has agreed to pay US$5.7 million to the government and US$45.5 million to the Social Security Administration. His sentencing is scheduled for July where he could face up to 12 years in prison.
Daugherty, who was arrested in April, will pay the government US$609,000 and faces a maximum of four years in prison. He will be sentenced in August.

The 81-year-old David Black Daugherty pleaded guilty Friday May 13, 2017 in federal court in Lexington to two counts of taking illegal gratuities. Daugherty agreed to pay the government $609,000 as part of his plea.
                                       (Above, see Judge David Black Daugherty)
But Judge Daugherty worked for Frank Cristaudo, who was the Chief Administrative Law Judge. (CALJ). 
                                      (Above, see SSA CALJ Frank Cristaudo)

They both worked for Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue.
                                 (Above, see SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue)
Judge Daugherty was working to eliminate the "back log".
The Chief Administrative Law Judge had and has day-to-day oversight of all of SSA's's hearing operations.
Judge Cristaudo testified before Congress that he wanted to implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate the backlog of hearings. By eliminating the backlog, he would improve hearing office productivity and the timeliness of SSA hearings and decisions.
Judges like ALJ Dave Daugherty were at the heart of his operation. He testified that he would be monitoring the workloads of these Judges and their cases carefully.
He had selected a number of excellent judges including Judge Daugherty. He needed more judges like Judge Daugherty who were well-suited to SSA's type of work - judges who were capable of thriving under the workload demands of SSA's high-volume, electronic hearing operation. Judge Daugherty was the most prolific high producer that he had.
After successfully eliminating SSA's 1,000 or more day-old cases in FY 2007, he focused on reducing the 900 or more day-old cases by the end of FY 2008.  He testified that he believed a backlog of aged cases interfered with the normal hearing office workflow. Productivity was up because of Judge Daugherty and others who decided cases without holding Hearings.  The new judges  were trained by the highest-producing judges in SSA's ALJ corps, judges like Judge Dave Daugherty.
The complete text of Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo's testimony can be read at:
(See   https://www.ssa.gov/legislation/testimony_091608.html)
Disability fraud appears to be on the rise, with some of the biggest scams being detected in recent years such as the 2014 scheme involving 100 ex-police officers and firemen from New York who filed false mental illness claims in order to receive federal benefits costing the Social Security system hundreds of millions of dollars.

Judge Daugherty Pleads Guilty To Taking Bribes

A Social Security Administration (SSA)  Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) involved in one of the biggest Social Security frauds in history pleaded guilty Friday, 13 May 2017 admitting that he helped scam the federal government out of potentially more than half a billion dollars in bogus disability payments.
David B. Daugherty, a former administrative law judge, approved at least 3,149 disability cases filed by a single lawyer in eastern Kentucky. More than 1,700 of those have been deemed fraudulent by government investigators, obligating the government to pay out more than $550 million in lifetime benefits.
Daugherty pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving illegal gratuities. The charge is similar to bribery, though the payoff is made after the fact, not before.
“This admission that a judge in a position of trust took over a half-million dollars in cash from a crooked lawyer is outrageous,” said Rep. Sam Johnson, chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee that oversees the program. “This case proves once again that more needs to be done to stop disability fraud across America. I’m committed to working with my colleagues to help protect taxpayer dollars and prevent disability fraud.”
Disability fraud appears to be growing, with some of the biggest scams being detected in recent years. But the one Daugherty was involved in was staggering in its brazenness.
The 81-year-old David Black Daugherty pleaded guilty Friday May 13, 2017 in federal court in Lexington to two counts of taking illegal gratuities. Daugherty agreed to pay the government $609,000 as part of his plea.
                                       (Above, see Judge David Black Daugherty)
But Judge Daugherty worked for Frank Cristaudo, who was the Chief Administrative Law Judge. (CALJ). 
                                      (Above, see SSA CALJ Frank Cristaudo)

They both worked for Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue.
                                 (Above, see SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue)
Judge Daugherty was working to eliminate the "back log".
The Chief Administrative Law Judge had and has day-to-day oversight of all of SSA's's hearing operations.
Judge Cristaudo testified before Congress that he wanted to implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate the backlog of hearings. By eliminating the backlog, he would improve hearing office productivity and the timeliness of SSA hearings and decisions.
Judges like ALJ Dave Daugherty were at the heart of his operation. He testified that he would be monitoring the workloads of these Judges and their cases carefully.
He had selected a number of excellent judges including Judge Daugherty. He needed more judges like Judge Daugherty who were well-suited to SSA's type of work - judges who were capable of thriving under the workload demands of SSA's high-volume, electronic hearing operation. Judge Daugherty was the most prolific high producer that he had.
After successfully eliminating SSA's 1,000 or more day-old cases in FY 2007, he focused on reducing the 900 or more day-old cases by the end of FY 2008.  He testified that he believed a backlog of aged cases interfered with the normal hearing office workflow. Productivity was up because of Judge Daugherty and others who decided cases without holding Hearings.  The new judges  were trained by the highest-producing judges in SSA's ALJ corps, judges like Judge Dave Daugherty.
The complete text of Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo's testimony can be read at:
(See   https://www.ssa.gov/legislation/testimony_091608.html)
Judge Daugherty instructed Attorney Conn on how to write up bogus applications so he could approve them without ever needing to have the applicants appear for an in-person hearing, according to court documents, speeding the process along.
Conn, who pleaded guilty earlier this year, admitted he submitted false IQ tests and had the doctors rubber stamp bogus medical diagnoses for many of his clients.
Federal prosecutors said rejections of bad applications, if they ever happened, were rare.
Conn collected more than $7 million in payments for filing bogus applications while the scam was operating from 2004 to 2011, and paid Daugherty $609,000 during that time.
They would meet in the parking lot of a restaurant or gas station so Conn could hand over the cash, which was carefully structured to keep just under the level that might draw attention from financial regulators, according to court documents.
At a rate of nearly $100,000, Daugherty was adding a tremendous supplement to his annual pay as an administrative law judge. In 2004 they averaged $137,000 a year, rising to $155,000 in 2011, according to FederalPay.org.
Conn, in his case, had said Daugherty was the orchestrator, with the administrative law judge first approaching the lawyer and making clear he had an extraordinary amount of power over Conn’s cases.
Conn’s plea agreement said Daugherty suggested an initial $5,000 payment, which he said was to help a relative in rehab. The two men later worked out an arrangement to pay for each approved application.
Social Security officials testified to Mr. Johnson’s subcommittee last month that they can’t give even a ballpark estimate for how much fraud exists in the $150 billion-a-year disability program.
The program told The Washington Times that it has gone back and disapproved more than half of the applications filed — but officials would not say whether they’ve stopped the payments, nor whether they have been able to claw any of the mis-paied money back.
Sean Brune, assistant deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration’s budget office, also said during last month’s hearing that the SSA doesn’t have the power to strip Daugherty of his government pension.
We do not have under current statute authority to revoke his pension,” he said.
Still, Mr. Brune said that the former judge if convicted the court can order restitution, meaning his pension could be garnished to cover those costs.
Rep. Tom Rice, a South Carolina Republican who said the former judge is now living in his district in Myrtle Beach, asked if Congress should pass a law to cancel pensions of Social Security employees who abet fraud.
“We’d be happy to talk to you about that,” Mr. Brune said.
Daugherty will be sentenced Aug. 25, 2017.

 
- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2017)

SSA ALJ Pleads Guilty

Former administrative law judge pleads guilty to taking bribes in $550M disability fraud scheme



Share18
A former Social Security Administration (SSA) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) pleaded guilty on  May 13, 2017 to taking more than $609,000 in bribes from a disability lawyer who called himself “Mr. Social Security.”
The former judge, ALJ David Black Daugherty, 81, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving illegal gratuities, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice and stories by the Washington Times and the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader.
Daugherty, who heard cases in West Virginia, was accused of taking payments to make favorable rulings in more than 3,100 cases for clients represented by Kentucky lawyer Eric Conn, obligating the government to pay more than $550 million in lifetime disability payments.
Conn, who once called himself “Mr. Social Security,” pleaded guilty in March. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July, according to the Herald-Leader.
Daugherty admitted he sought out Conn’s cases, told him what type of medical evidence to submit, and awarded benefits without holding hearings. Daugherty accepted the illegal payments between November 2004 to April 2011, according to the press release.
The government is holding new hearings to determine whether the claimants in the cases are entitled to benefits. More than half of the applications have since been disapproved, according to the Washington Times. Many have unfortunately committed suicide.
The actual payout by the Social Security Administration in the cases was $46.5 million, an amount that Conn promised to pay the government. He also promised to pay $5.7 million, representing the fees he earned in the cases.
Daugherty has agreed to pay the government $609,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 25. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of four years, according to the Herald-Leader.
Charges are still pending against a psychologist accused of falsifying mental impairment evaluations.
 (By Debra Cassens Weiss)

The 81-year-old David Black Daugherty pleaded guilty Friday May 13, 2017 in federal court in Lexington to two counts of taking illegal gratuities. Daugherty agreed to pay the government $609,000 as part of his plea.
                                       (Above, see Judge David Black Daugherty)
But Judge Daugherty worked for Frank Cristaudo, who was the Chief Administrative Law Judge. (CALJ). 
                                      (Above, see SSA CALJ Frank Cristaudo)

They both worked for Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue.
                                 (Above, see SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue)
Judge Daugherty was working to eliminate the "back log".
The Chief Administrative Law Judge had and has day-to-day oversight of all of SSA's's hearing operations.
Judge Cristaudo testified before Congress that he wanted to implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate the backlog of hearings. By eliminating the backlog, he would improve hearing office productivity and the timeliness of SSA hearings and decisions.
Judges like ALJ Dave Daugherty were at the heart of his operation. He testified that he would be monitoring the workloads of these Judges and their cases carefully.
He had selected a number of excellent judges including Judge Daugherty. He needed more judges like Judge Daugherty who were well-suited to SSA's type of work - judges who were capable of thriving under the workload demands of SSA's high-volume, electronic hearing operation. Judge Daugherty was the most prolific high producer that he had.
After successfully eliminating SSA's 1,000 or more day-old cases in FY 2007, he focused on reducing the 900 or more day-old cases by the end of FY 2008.  He testified that he believed a backlog of aged cases interfered with the normal hearing office workflow. Productivity was up because of Judge Daugherty and others who decided cases without holding Hearings.  The new judges  were trained by the highest-producing judges in SSA's ALJ corps, judges like Judge Dave Daugherty.
The complete text of Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo's testimony can be read at:
(See   https://www.ssa.gov/legislation/testimony_091608.html)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Granny Kills and Steals, She Killed Husband, Then Collected His Social Security Benefits

Woman indicted for receiving SSI benefits for husband she killed

A federal grand jury last week indicted Opal Elaine Tillman  for fraudulently claiming nearly $168,000 in Social Security widow’s benefits on the death of a husband she killed, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey and Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge Margaret Moore-Jackson. A six-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges Opal Elaine Tillman, 71, of Morris, with five counts of wire fraud for causing the SSA to wire benefit payments, which Tillman was not entitled to receive, to her account at Regions Bank in Jefferson County between May 2012 and September 2016. Count Six of the indictment charges Tillman with theft of government property for stealing more than $100,000 from the SSA. The indictment seeks to have Tillman forfeit $167,830 to the government.
According to the indictment, Tillman was convicted in Alabama in June 1988 for killing her husband, Walter R. Tillman, on March 1, 1987. The month he died, Opal Tillman applied for Social Security Title II benefits on her husband’s work record. Title II benefits encompass old age, survivor and disability insurance payments. In her application Tillman wrote a statement acknowledging that she understood that “if I am convicted of felonious homicide any social security monies I receive on Mr. Tillman’s Social security record will constitute an over-payment and I will be liable to repay this money,” according to the indictment. She then requested monthly benefits for her and her children to begin as soon as possible.
While Opal Tillman was in prison in November 1988, the SSA notified her of an over-payment of benefits and explained: “A person who has been convicted of the felonious and intentional homicide of a wage earner cannot be entitled to monthly benefits, underpayments, or the lump-sum death payment on the earnings record of that wage earner,” according to the indictment.
Opal Tillman was released from prison into the Jefferson County Community Corrections Program in December 1996.
In October 2009, she applied by telephone to the SSA for widow’s benefits on the work record of Walter Roderick Tillman, according to the indictment. Opal Tillman provided her deceased husband’s Social Security number, dates of birth and death, and verification of their marriage for the application, the indictment charges.
Opal Tillman began receiving benefits Nov. 9, 2009, on the work record of the man she killed, according to the indictment. The monthly benefits continued until Sept. 14, 2016.
The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for theft of government property is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
An indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

In an unrelated case, Opal Elaine Tillman was arrested in 2015 on charges that she stole stole more than $60l,000 from an elderly couple she was supposed to be caring for. In that case, she pleaded guilty last month to financial exploitation of the elderly and was sentenced to 10 years in prison with 18 months to serve.
Tillman was convicted in Mobile in June 1988 for killing her husband, Walter R. Tillman, on March 1, 1987. The month he died, according to federal authorities, his widow applied for Social Security Title II benefits on her husband's work record. Title II benefits encompass old age, survivor and disability insurance payments. According to the U.S. Attorney's press release, Tillman wrote in her application "if I am convicted of felonious homicide, any social security monies I receive on Mr. Tillman's Social Security record will constitute an overpayment and I will be liable to repay this money." She then asked that the monthly benefits to her and her children begin as soon as possible.
While Tillman was in prison in November 1988, the SSA notified her of an overpayment of benefits. They explained to her, "A person who has been convicted of the felonious and intentional homicide of a wage earner cannot be entitled to monthly benefits, underpayments, or the lump-sum death payment on the earnings reord of that wage earner."
Tillman was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her husband's death, but in December 1996 was released from prison into the Jefferson County Community Corrections program.
In 2009, federal authorities say, she applied by telephone to the SSA for widow's benefits on the work record of her dead husband. For the application, she provided his Social Security number, dates of birth and death, and verification of their marriage. She began receiving those benefits on Nov. 9, 2009 on the work record of the man she killed, according to the indictment. Those monthly payments continued until Sept. 14, 2016.
The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250.000 fine. The maximum penalty for theft of government property is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


"I think there is a special place for people that take advantage of our senior citizens,'' Chief Deputy Randy Christian said of Opal Elaine Tillman's arrest.
Two years ago, Tillman was working as a housekeeper and caregiver for an elderly Jefferson County couple. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office received a complaint that she had stolen cash and property from an 87-year-old woman and her husband.
Family members told investigators they had noticed several suspicious transactions on the victims' checking account. Tillman had been working as a housekeeper for the victims in 2011 on a part-time basis, but had taken on more responsibilities as the wife's health declined.
In all, authorities said, Tillman stole more than $60l,000 from the couple. "I think there is a special place for people that take advantage of our senior citizens, most especially those placed in a position of trust," Jefferson County sheriff's Chief Deputy Randy Christian said at the time.
Tillman pleaded guilty to those charges on April 4, 2017. She is currently listed as an inmate at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. Alabama Department of Corrections records indicate her parole on the murder charge has been revoked. Her minimum release date is 2023, but she will come up for a parole hearing next year on the state charges.
A trial date on the new, federal charges has not been announced.