|Print this story||Permalink|
A group of Queens residents has filed a class-action lawsuit alleging five judges in the borough are biased against disabled residents and consistently deny applicants Social Security benefits.
The lawsuit, filed by eight residents, claims five judges contribute to the third-highest denial rate in the country and the highest in the state.
“People with severe disabilities are being unfairly denied benefits,” said Eve Stotland of the Urban Justice Center. “As a result, we have Queens residents that are sleeping on trains.”
The U.S. Social Security Administration and judges declined to comment for this article.
The five judges mentioned in the suit, which constitute a majority of the eight administrative law justices for Social Security claims in the borough, each hear 150 cases annually and deny benefits to up to 80 percent of applicants, according to the complaint.
The judges mentioned in the suit are David Nisnewitz, Michael Cofresi, Seymour Fier, Marilyn P. Hoppenfeld and Hazel C. Strauss.
“Some [attorneys] have seen language bias, where judges express disbelief that people could have lived in the United States for 20 or 30 years and not speak English,” Stotland said. “But any Queens resident knows you can go to Flushing and be the only person that doesn’t speak Chinese.”
In one specific case, Judith Blumensohn, a plaintiff represented by her court-appointed guardian, had suffered from mental illness since her childhood, but was denied certain benefits she was clearly eligible for under the law, according to Stotland.
In another case, Julia Juan, another plaintiff in the suit said Nisnewitz verbally berated a state employee who testified that Juan was too injured to work.
The Urban Justice Center, along with the corporate law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, are filing the sui, and working pro bono for the eight plaintiffs after Stotland decided to pursue the problem.
“This has been common knowledge among people with disabilities and their legal advocates for decades,” she said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
|Print this story||Permalink|
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.