Social Security Administrative Law Judge Harry Taylor likes to catch a few winks while on the job at his Charleston office.  A report by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform says the judge “repeatedly slept in his office, during staff meetings and during hearings.”

Taylor denies the allegations, even though he was once confronted by a supervisor who played a CD recording of a 2009 hearing where you could hear the judge snoring.  But according to the congressional report, the slumberous Taylor’s real problem is his legal lethargy.

His job, which he has held since 1988, is to hear appeals when a person has been denied Social Security disability benefits.  Typically, these cases only reach an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) like Taylor after they have been denied twice.

The report found that between 2005 and 2013, Taylor ruled in favor of the claimant 94 percent of the time, awarding $2.5 billion in benefits to 8,227 individuals.  In two out of every three cases, Taylor reached his decision without holding a hearing.

Reviews by the Social Security Administration found Taylor’s work incompetent and sloppy.  Additionally, the congressional report determined he repeatedly demonstrated inappropriate conduct toward female co-workers and others.

Ironically, Taylor may have helped the Charleston SSA office look good to some higher ups because his whirlwind approach helped reduce a backlog of cases; never mind that it cost taxpayers billions.

This problem is much larger than one person, though.  The congressional report says that between 2005 and 2013, “more than 1.3 million individuals were placed on a federal disability program, at a total cost of nearly $400 billion by ALJs who granted appeals more than 75 percent of the time.”

The abuse first came to light in a 2010 report in the Wall Street Journal which focused, interestingly enough, on another ALJ from West Virginia.  D.B. Daugherty of Huntington was the poster child for runaway claims.  He awarded benefits 99 percent of the time, approving $2.5 billion in lifetime benefits to 8,413 individuals from 2005 until 2011.

Daugherty is alleged to have collaborated with Kentucky disability attorney Eric Conn, who sought people who had been denied benefits and then steered the cases to Daugherty for approval.  According to the Journal, Daugherty once said of his more judicious cohorts, “Some of these judges act like it’s their own damn money we’re giving away.”

Daugherty was forced to retire in 2011, but he is collecting full federal retirement benefits.  As for Taylor, he remains on the job.  A supervisor recommended over a year ago that Taylor be suspended for 60 days for misconduct, but that’s still pending.

Better yet, Taylor should resign, but that’s a big decision. Perhaps he should sleep on it.

 

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Comments

  • squad

    go to ALJ disposition data and you will see that there are bastards who give virtually no one SS also nearly in every office.
    why is it that Hoppy tries to create a distorted view by only talking about the very few (in comparison) that go the other way? I deal with reality of facts and cases every single day, so when I see something like this used in a political argument, it is beyond pathetic. unfortunately they've never had to sit across from some who deserves it and tell they just waited 2 years and paid a lifetime in for nothing despite the fact of having objective clear basis for benefits. try cases in Charlottesville Va office. what a misleading bunch of crap . I am convinced hoppy is fed these subjects to pound on, given the true grim reality of a truly disabled person filing an app in 2014, this website should be ashamed of itself. its certainly not on the side of the people. There is a problem alright but your highlighting and singling out these judges just perpetuates a popular lie. see reality at ALJ Disposition data and deal with the real stats. If you really want the truth, you will be shocked.

  • Kevin W

    and we wonder why ss is running out of money,, lawyers and judges,, pitiful

  • Mr.P

    Hey Hoppy let the public in on how much the amount of some of the checks are that you are issued from WVU.

  • Mr.P

    Good job judge you screwed the same people that are screwing us and that is OUR GOVT!!

  • J. King

    I would like to see Judge Taylor's critics live on the bare minimum of 700 dollars a month. I would hate to see critics of the disability program ever experience an illness that keeps them from working. He is a fair judge, at least he has the guts to do the right thing. Most people that apply are legitimate. Only a few may slip through. People should not judge people from the outside, there are a lot of mental disabilities also. I can tell you all personably that the judges in Morgantown OHA are very unfair. They are all now afraid to do the right thing due to all this negative press. The program was implemented because of a need to help those who can not work. Most claims are legitimate. Judge Taylor is old, so what if he takes a nap. He's an honorable person and does not deserve negative press.

    • Kevin W

      i'm sorry dude,, most claims are not legitimate,, that's why they get denied by ss ,, then they get a lawyer,, I would guess 25 to 40% of the claims are legitimate,, but what do I know,,

      • Liam

        Obviously you don't know much. Don't believe unless you look up the statistics. Hope you never need benefits.

        • squad

          none of you know anything unless you try cases. guess what? I do. and this whole singling out of judges can go both ways? want me to start on those who are just bastards and deny almost every single case? I can name names as well. I think if everyone on here looks at the real ALJ disposition data stats, they would shut up.

          I love the comment that most cases are not legit. wow. they gotcha. unless its your application and your family is up against it.

          wv the home of compassion...right?
          care about your neighbors huh?



          everybody has an opinion and an asterick next to their name also right???? funny

          kinda like the guy they filmed at the dc mall protesting ss recipients (he was a recipient himself)-you find em in every corner of this state. guess they hate themselves too...
          one day we will be on our sick beds we'll probably think maybe we shoulda been a but nicer or give someone the befit of the doubt.

          .just maybe... i've never met a dying man who wished he'd have held people feet to the fire more... not one.

          but some of these judges who have denied some of the people ive had will probably have some trouble sleeping if they ever see how much needless and wrong trouble they caused these clients of mine who were 100% totally deserving of benefits. it happens every day don't kid yourself. im not some bs'er on here I've been doing this for decades now.

  • GregG

    Ok, now lets flip the coin over............how many people should be receiving SSDI but have never filed or they gave up after the first denial. Like most things in life, there are two side to every story.

  • mntnman

    Even the "legitimate Judges" who work for years, grant benefits that result in billions in awards. That's what happens. The headline is a little sensational.

    The large increase in SS Disability benefits was predicted by SS several decades ago -- they warned Congress and the Executive about it. In great part if relates to two factors -- the aging baby boomers and women entering the work force in much higher numbers since the 70s. We were warned.

    If Congress and the Executive had not spent the Trust Fund dollars that have been paid by "We the People" for the past many decades, they would not be running out of money. If they had left the money to earn interest and grow, we would not be facing such hard choices now. Put the blame where it really belongs. (Not to say rouge judges don't need to be addressed -- its just that there really aren't that many. And some are rouge inversely -- they don't grant benefits. And like the stopped clock that is right twice a day, even rouge judges do grant claims that are legitimate.)

    Of course, its just easier to blame the sick and infirm.

  • Picklebee

    Hop:
    Print a list of lawyers who feed on social security fraud and how much we tax payers feed them.Run it for the past 5 years.

    • MCK

      Believe me lawyers that do this work get set fees . They are not making millions of dollars like these eg: accident lawyers that drive up our insurance rates. People that are interested in this type of work truly care for people because I can tell you if you don't care for people and you don't feel like listening to problems and listening to people that have no money you could not do this work. No big shot lawyer would want to do this work because like I said they can only make $6000 at the highest and they are only paid if recovery is made and at a 48 percent approval rate, I have a feeling these lawyers are going to stop doing this work. More people will then be hurt. There is no way that 52% of the people applying for disability are fraud this is what they are doing to people this is the other side the public needs to know. This country is headed in a bad direction look at the economy, go to the grocery store, go pay for gas. People in general are hurting they don't need to be hurt by the government if they truly can't work. This is the USA we need to take care of deserving citizens. By the way people pay into the program for social Security disability insurance that's what the program is for if you become disabled you have already paid in. If you are in SSI case these people are really disabled, a lot of them are mentally disabled or born with never a chance to work due to health issues. People are going to start stealing and the crime rate will go up.We will be paying for these people in jail so let the public pick would they rather pay these people a minimal amount to live on or would they rather pay thousands of dollars to keep them in jail. People also need to realize that this does put some money into the economy for all of you people that own businesses and are so judgemental of people that are hurting. God forbid any of the critics of this program ever become ill, because let me tell you it can happen to any one and your life savings will be depleted. I agree working people are hurting too and I can understand how they feel when they may see a neighbor on disability and they don't think they deserve it. We can not judge others, there are disabilities that are mental and you don't have to be bedfast to be disabled. My point is let's look at both sides objectively.

      • MCK

        The money paid these recipients goes right back in the economy. If people end up in jail because they steal to survive the money used for their care is wasted......wake up people there are worse things this country needs to fix. This country is eliminating the middle class. We have the rich and poor and the middle are struggling to survive pay check to pay check. Critics need to try to live on 700-1200 per month. In fact let the judges that are denying these people try to live on that instead of their 175,000 salary.

        • Kevin W

          from what I just read,, they are not getting denied

  • Worm

    Hoppy and Metronews....if this is such an issue then stop running the AD's for legal firms like Jane Dils. Some that tainted money is in your bank accounts.

  • mntnman

    I handle a lot of SS disability cases. Have for 27 years. Judges need to be fair; both ways. They need to rule on the evidence before them; not on their philosophy. For every Taylor, there are judges who grant very few claims. Neither is doing their job properly. Those who grant simply because are not any worse than those who deny simply because. I see a lot of older folks coming through my office who have worked hard for decades and then suffer a debilitating injury or chronic disease and are denied repeatedly -- they wait 16-18 months to get in front of a judge. If they pull the wrong judge -- then they suffer further.

    There is no excuse for granting most of the claims before you. There is also no excuse for denying most before you. Judges need to be fair, thoughtful and more to the point, follow the law. Just follow the law. It is not about your personal philosophy -- its about the law.

    People I see (most, not all) have worked hard and had something bad happen. They paid years for these benefits (Its called disability INSURANCE.) It is not a hand out -- it was paid for in many instances for decades of work. So, unless and until we walk a mile in their shoes -- suffering the ravages of chronic illness or injury -- I suggest perhaps we avoid denigrating those unfortunate souls and focus on getting judges who will follow the law properly.

    Most of my practice I go before judges in Roanoke. (That office covers So. W.Va.) For the most part they are fair, reasonable and review the evidence then apply the law. One is more liberal than most -- three are more conservative. But I always feel like I will get the opportunity to make my clients case. Just apply the law. Nothing more or nothing less.

    • J. King

      I agree. I think there are more judges that do not award benefits and should. The common person does not know the real story of what goes on with decisions. People just judge, it's ignorance. I think the judges are now afraid to approve cases because they will get noticed. That's the problem that needs looked at. HOW MANY JUDGES ARE AFRAID TO AWARD? This is killing the people who deserve it. It's wrong. These judges are really just lawyers with a title.

    • The bookman

      Here is a page from the SSA with a PDF link showing ALJ data by judge and office. I found it helpful in shedding some light on the variability of claim approval/denial and the number of partial/total disability awards granted. The numbers support your statements, and I agree with your summation. I do however believe that the system is encumbered with fraud and abuse, and those who are rightfully entitled to the benefit suffer the most by the negativity and mistrust the general public has for such programs. The truly disabled shouldn't be vilified for participating in such programs, and government's haphazard administration of the program shoulders the blame. They need to clean up their act, and the numbers on this table certainly point them in the right direction to do just that.

      • The bookman

        http://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/03_ALJ_Disposition_Data.html

        Forgot the link

        • mntnman

          Yeah, thanks for the info bookman -- I was aware of it and use it all the time. SS has a lot of data available. I I think the data does support my comments. (I wish it would show more than one year, though. It would be shocking.)

          While there is a certain amount of fraud and abuse in all systems, I do not think it is any better or worse in the SS Disability system. (Some Doctors abuse medicare/medicaid, some contractors abuse state and federal projects, lenders and brokers cheat, some cheat entitlements, etc, etc, etc.) One thing is for certain, many get starved out before they get their SS benefits -- and many were making much more working than the benefits they receive. They sell everything and hang on waiting. Why would a sane person do that, unless they could not work.

          FYI, the national average for awards granted by ALJ's currently is about 48%. Ten years ago it was closer to 58%.

          • J king

            Yes your right. ONLY 48PERCENT ARE approved!
            I have a hard time believing the rest of the 52 percent are fraud. People do sell everything that the worked for and then 52 percent are denied. I estimate that 70 percent should be approved. 20 percent lack the right evidence due to poor medical care and the other 10 percent are not disabled. It's better to pay legitimate claims then end up paying for these people in jail when they steal to feed their family. This is a real problem. Pay the legitimate claims. Stop hurting people!

  • Debra

    A lot of you on this site are talking about SSI, and that program is not the same as SSDI. SSI is a program used to support poor people who are disabled and have never worked and paid into Social Security. That money does not come from the Social Security trust fund. This article is about people appealing SSDI BENIFITS. That means they had to have worked for several years in order to qualify. That money comes from the Society Security trust fund. And the reason for appeals is that you can live in one state and be approved for disability and someone living in a neighboring state gets denied for the same exact disability. I understand that there are abuses, but every time these abusive situations come up people use blanket comments to degrade those receiving payments due to disability without knowing the whole story. You have no clue what a disabled person goes through. I guess we are supposed to hide away in our homes and not have a life on what you think is your dime. Don't buy a law mower to keep at your home for someone else to mow your grass cause someone sees you buy it and thinks you are mowing. Don't go to a concert cause you can't afford it, you can't have a TV, iPhone or anything else. If you are on these programs you must have to live way worse than we working people. I get that there are some problems, but don't assume you understand the complexities and lump everyone together.

    • Liam

      I respect where you are coming from. You should not have to live in a shell if you are disabled. For crying out loud... People are not dead yet! People that are critical should spend a day in a disabled persons shoes and see if they would trade places... I doubt it ...

  • DWM

    He was single-handedly making WV a bad place to put a business and costing every business in WC additional premiums, ultimately passed on to the consumer. So yes, when Judge Daugherty said they act like, "it is their own damn money", it was their own damn money. This is not incompetence, it should be a felony and these guys should be wearing stripes, or whatever it is they wear in jail these days.

  • The Answer

    I was being sarcastic Silas.
    Nothing wrong with him except he's lazy.
    On another note I read in today's Charleston paper where someone was complaining about the quality of the free garbage bags the city is passing out.
    Imagine that.

  • The Answer

    I was being sarcastic Silas.
    Nothing wrong with him except he's lazy.
    On another note I read in today's Charleston Gazette's reader comments section where someone was bitching about the quality of the FREE garbage bags Dollar Danny is giving away.
    Laughed my ass off at that one.

  • FungoJoseph

    Hoppy,
    There is a big difference between SSDI and SSI. Both are disability programs, but SSDI is for people with a work history. SSI is for people who have never had a work history or a very limited or spotty history. Many of the folks get them mixed up. A majority of the folks in WV are on SSI.
    After Reagan got all the drunks off of the SSI program in the 80's it was the democrats who placed us this financial mess in Social Security. In 1993, it was the Clintons, who prostituted the SSI program and made it a lifetime welfare program. Just check the facts, and see the explosion in enrollment in the SSI program in the 90's. Then you'll know where the problem originated from.