Social Security Medical Examinations Inadequate

Posted on Jul 12, 2008
 A September 28, 2007   EXPOSÉ  by Fred Kelly of the Charlotte Observer reveals that , although the state of North Carolina pays huge sums to doctors for physical examinations of Social Security Disability claimants, these exams are often cursory and inadequate.

As a  result, many deserving North Carolina citizens go without the disability benefits they deserve. In many more cases , the inadequate physical exams result in years of delay, causing severe financial hardship for disabled citizens.

In the 2006 fiscal year, doctors in North Carolina collected $12 million to perform disability exams. The Charlotte Observer interviewed more than 40 current and former applicants across the region, and more than half described their visits as hasty, inadequate or unusual.

These exams usually represent one of the last chances for help. After the exams, many of the applicants are rejected. Some of the applicants will go on to lose their homes or go bankrupt. Some others have died during the appeals process.

Doctors say exams are thorough. North Carolina State officials who pay the physicians say they monitor them effectively and have weeded out poor performers.

"Most of the doctors I know want to do a good job," said Dr. Mohammed Ranavaya, president of the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners, which certifies doctors. "They don't compromise their professional integrity. Most doctors are very high-caliber professionals."

Critics of the federal system of examination say the government too often uses the exams to justify rejecting claims -- another example, they argue, of how odds are stacked against applicants.

"The exams are bogus," said Linda Fullerton, president of the Social Security Disability Coalition, an advocacy group for the disabled. "The system is set up so you give up or die."

How much these exams will factor into approval or denial for the applicant is not revealed by North Carolina State officials. Medical evidence in addition to a person’s age, education level, daily activity, and work history are generally the factors considered.

Those that are familiar with the system have said that the exams are critical in every decision. However, many people say that the exams are completely “bogus.”

Those that are critical of the federal program recognize that not everyone is deserving of benefits. However, they believe that the exams are used too often by the government as an excuse to justify rejection of claims, and that the odds are stacked against applicants.

A retired doctor who supplements his retirement income by conducting Social Security disability exams is one of the highest paid doctors by the N.C. Disability Determination Services. Dr  Glenn Baumblatt typically sees 16 patients a week. In fiscal year 2006, the government paid him about $82,600, among the highest amounts paid to an N.C. disability doctor, records show.

Many of his patients are poor, he said, estimating that a quarter are homeless. He described others as drug addicts and ex-convicts.

N.C. doctors typically collect between $95 and $130 per disability exam. Some doctors perform only disability exams while others incorporate them into their private practice.

MDSI Physicians Group, a Utah-based company, received roughly $350,000 in fiscal 2006, the most of any of the 636 companies, clinics or individual doctors that perform exams in North Carolina.

If you or a loved one are turned down for Social Security Disability benefits, it is important to appeal immediately. Approximately 60% of claimants who are  turned down and who appeal eventually receive their full social security disability benefits   

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