Thursday, June 04, 2015

Disability benefits restored, pending new hearings, for 900 who used lawyer implicated in fraud

Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin lifted payment suspensions for 900 disability benefit recipients in Eastern Kentucky and adjoining areas until they get a hearing before an administrative law judge, Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers, the region's congressman and chair of the House Appropriations Commitee, announced today.

"We are all determined to bring fraud to a rapid conclusion, and if it exists, it needs to be handled appropriately," Rogers said in a press release. "But this is the American way; you are innocent until you are proven guilty. Now our people will be able to pay bills and purchase the everyday items they need while they await the hearing they deserve."

The suspensions resulted from a federal fraud investigation of a Floyd County attorney, some area physicians and a Social Security administrative law judge who retired under fire a few years ago. The agency notified 900 people that their disability benefits had been suspended, and 600 other people were told their Supplemental Security Income would continue only until their eligibility could be examined again. Now the 10-day window to provide medical records has been extended to 30 days, Colvin said.

"Suspending benefits could have left hundreds of people in Eastern Kentucky with little or no income for a year or more," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "That had caused fears about people not being able to afford food or medicine or losing their homes. The loss of benefits might even have played a role in at three suicides." Rogers told Estep that in his meeting with Colvin, "I was rather blunt that this is a matter of life and death."

The area may be the nation's most dependent on disability payments, as indicated by this map. Click on it for a larger version.

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