In a move that speaks to the rights of our disabled citizens, Manhattan Federal Judge Leonard B. Sand recently handed down a ruling barring the Social Security Administration from following a policy of "non-acquiescence" in denying Social Security Disability (SSD) Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits.
The Social Security Administration has held itself above the law by refusing to comply with precedent.
As part and parcel of the cost-cutting legacy left by the Reagan administration, Social Security has chosen not to apply the ruling of the Circuit Courts to other regions. Many Social Security disability claimants have had to enlist the services of a lawyer in order to pursue their claims, and many more have been prevented from receiving benefits because they simply give up when their claim is denied.
The practice of non-acquiescence places an unnecessary burden on our courts, but most important, it places an unnecessary, often overwhelming burden on those who have already been dealt a blow in life, those disabled through accident or illness.
Judge Sand's injunction forcing the agency to follow Circuit Court precedent, if upheld by the higher courts, will help those who apply for disability benefits in the future, but it will do nothing for those who have been denied benefits they rightfully deserve prior to the Sand decision. Sand recommends a mechanism such as an ad hoc review panel to look into such cases.
It is not unreasonable to suggest that the compassion of a country can be judged by the treatment it gives to its disabled citizens. As long as the policy of non-acquiescence by the Social Security Administration exists in this country, our level of compassion appears to be exceedingly low.