An "expert" with nothing more than a keyboard is not better than this cat.An interesting experiment is to ask exactly the same hypothetical questions of two vocational experts, on the same day, at the same hearing office. You may be amazed to learn how quickly jobs are created and destroyed in the imaginary world of the vocational expert. It would be fun, even silly, if that testimony were not relied upon by SSA to deny (or award) disability benefits. It’s a world of make-believe numbers with dramatic consequences. So, what do you do?


The vast majority of attorneys and representatives respond to vocational “expert” (VE) testimony at SSA’s disability hearings by working to drive down the quantity of jobs given. They ask the VE about additional conditions in hypothetical questions after the Administrative Law Judge has finished her questions. While this certainly is something that the good attorney will strive to do, it is only a small part of the job. It also is useless if the ALJ is determined to turn down the case, and has set the stage for a denial.

The other part of the attorney’s job includes asking the VE “how do you know?” Of course, the average VE will reply “due to my 20 years of experience.”


That is not a sufficient answer to explain the testimony that there are 22,235 unskilled sedentary security monitors. We want to know “how do you know?” From that, the usual VE will say, “it says so right on this report!” Which report? Sometimes it is from U.S. Publishing (which is not a government source) or SkillTran (which is also not a government source.)


So, we ask, “how did they know?” “Show us how that company got to that number, show us that it is reliable, and tell us how you used that number to answer the ALJ’s questions.”


What it all comes down to in the VE’s “numbers game” is reproducibility. One way to sum it up for the evasive VE and the ALJ who constantly interrupts, wanting to know what you are getting at is, “Assume, Ms. VE, that my client, and a reviewing District Court do not believe you. Please explain the methodology you used that allowed you to answer a hypothetical question (of which you had no prior knowledge) in 15 seconds, that gave an answer of 22,235 unskilled sedentary security monitors.” That is, “give us the ability to test what you have just said, just as you said it, to ensure that it is correct rather than a number you pulled from a report or computer program that you do not understand.”


Researchers from Smith College, Duke University complains of a similar the problem in such allegedly scientific information in another way:


"The ability to duplicate an experiment and its results is a central tenet of the scientific method, but recent research has shown an alarming number of peer-reviewed papers are irreproducible.


A team of math and statistics professors has proposed a way to address one root of that problem by teaching reproducibility to aspiring scientists, using software that makes the concept feel logical rather than cumbersome.


Researchers from Smith College, Duke University and Amherst College looked at how introductory statistics students responded to a curriculum modified to stress reproducibility. Their work is detailed in a paper published Feb. 25 in the journal Technological Innovations in Statistics Education.


In 2013, on the heels of several retraction scandals and studies showing reproducibility rates as low as 10 percent for peer-reviewed articles, the prominent scientific journal Nature dedicated a special issue to the concerns over irreproducibility.


Nature's editors announced measures to address the problem in its own pages, and encouraged the science community and funders to direct their attention to better training of young scientists.


"Too few biologists receive adequate training in statistics and other quantitative aspects of their subject," the editors wrote. "Mentoring of young scientists on matters of rigour and transparency is inconsistent at best."


The authors of the present study thus looked to their own classrooms for ways to incorporate the idea of reproducibility.


"Reproducing a scientific study usually has two components: reproducing the experiment, and reproducing the analysis," said Ben Baumer, visiting assistant professor of math and statistics at Smith College. "As statistics instructors, we wanted to emphasize the latter to our students."


The grade school maxim to "show your work" doesn't hold in the average introductory statistics class, said Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel, assistant professor of the practice in the Duke statistics department. In a typical workflow, a college-level statistics student will perform data analysis in one software package, but transfer the results into something better suited to presentation, like Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint.


Though standard, this workflow divorces the raw data and analysis from the final results, making it difficult for students to retrace their steps. The process can give rise to errors, and in many cases, the authors write, "the copy-and-paste paradigm enables, and even encourages, selective reporting. . . "



To Teach Scientific Reproducibility, Start Young | Duke Today



". . . With millions of Americans' unemployment benefits expiring, and as the Social Security Administration comes under increasing pressure to reform its financially-troubled entitlement program, policymakers are asking whether a significant amount of Americans are bilking disability benefits from federal coffers. A new study from Columbia Business School sheds light on the answer.

The research, titled "Unemployment Insurance and Disability Insurance in the Great Recession,[Direct link to PDF here] refutes the idea that the jobless and uninsured flock to disability benefits when their unemployment benefits expire.

"Contrary to the beliefs of many, even in policy circles, our research proves that the unemployed do not directly file for disability following the exhaustion of benefits," says Columbia Business SchoolProfessor Andreas Mueller, who helmed the study. "The evidence is just not there. As a matter of fact, fewer than 2% of workers whose unemployment benefits had expired actually applied for disability insurance."

The study was co-conducted by University of California, Berkeley Professor Jesse Rothstein, and University of California, Los Angeles Professor Tim M. von Wachter. . . "

The Sacramento Bee


CBO delivers welcome news to Obamacare backers"This is one of those strange days in which most of the political world seems to have gotten an important story backwards. The Affordable Care Act’s critics have spent the day eagerly touting a CBO report that offers a whole lot of good news for the Affordable Care Act’s supporters – and much of the media has played along in a depressing display.

Indeed, the CBO’s findings – which, again, are readily available online for all to see – actually add fresh evidence that discredits talking points pushed by the law’s detractors.
For Obamacare critics, the law has increased part-time employment over full-time employment. The CBO found “there is no compelling evidence” to support the argument.
For Obamacare critics, the law will worsen the nation’s finances. The CBO found that the Affordable Care Act will actually reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next 20 years.
For Obamacare critics, the law will force consumers to pay more for health care. The CBO found that the Affordable Care Act’s premiums are even better than originally projected.
For Obamacare critics, the law will cause the ranks of the uninsured to swell. The CBO found that the Affordable Care Act will bring coverage to 13 million Americans this year and 25 million Americans over the next two decades.
Conservatives who’ve spent the day urging Americans to look at the CBO report have inadvertently encouraged the public to review a document that supports the White House’s arguments."


CBO delivers welcome news to Obamacare backers | MSNBC



"In December, NSCLC learned that all Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications from people in a same sex marriage had been placed on an indefinite hold following last summer's Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor.

Individual cases in California, Maine and New York were brought to our attention by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Empire Justice Center. All of the individuals had applied for benefits prior to Windsor. In each case, they had been determined to meet the disability standard and would satisfy the SSI financial eligibility standard, whether they were regarded as married or not.

As a result of the delays, one individual was facing eviction, another had already been evicted. Another person had a terminal diagnosis with only six months left to live.

NSCLC, along with GLAD and the ACLU then raised the "hold" issue with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Department of Justice, stressing the urgency of the situation in which SSI applicants often find themselves. We emphasized that people eligible for SSI are a group who, by definition, have no resources to fall back on. Individual cases were also brought to SSA's attention.

As a result, SSA issued instructions earlier this month that provide for processing SSI applications from individuals in a same sex marriage who reside in a marriage recognition state and were married on or after the date that the state first happened to recognize an out of state marriages. They have also now paid each of the four hardship cases that were specifically brought to their attention. . . ."

Continue reading at NSCLC



From The Hill, January 16, 2014:


"Today the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means is holding a hearing to examine disturbing allegations that a group of firefighters, police officers and others in New York City may have fraudulently obtained Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

As a long-time advocate for people with disabilities, I applaud the close scrutiny of these extremely troubling allegations by the Social Security Administration, New York City law enforcement, and the House of Representatives. Few things make me angrier than disability fraud, which jeopardizes the economic security of the millions of play-by-the rules Americans with disabilities. Any abuse of vital programs like Social Security Disability Insurance MUST be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

These stories of alleged abuse promote the false assumption that fraud is rampant in the SSDI program. Nothing could be farther from the truth. According to Social Security’s watchdogs, ”fraud” in Social Security Disability Insurance is extremely rare. Despite the media attention to allegations of fraud, it is absolutely critical for the public to know the circumstances of the people who rely on SSDI.

People like Kira, who lives with cerebral palsy, and whose Social Security Disability Insurance benefits mean the difference between eating and not eating. People like Carol, who worked as a rare documents archivist at the Library of Congress until she suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after being hit by a car while riding her bike to work. Thankfully, Social Security Disability Insurance has enabled Carol and her family to keep their home from foreclosure.

Our nation’s Social Security system – including Disability Insurance – keeps millions of hardworking Americans like Kira and Carolout of poverty. Benefits average just $1,130 per month. Modest as these amounts are, benefits provide vital support, making it possible to secure stable housing and purchase food, life-sustaining medications, and other basic necessities.

It takes a lot more than just being out of work to quality for SSDI. Workers must have paid into the Social Security system for long enough to be covered in case of disability. Additionally, an applicant must provide extensive medical evidence of a severe disability, illness or injury. The disability standard is so strict that fewer than four in ten applicants are approved for disability benefits, even after all stages of appeal. Many are terminally ill -- Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries are over three times more likely to die than others their age, and nearly one in five men and one in women die within five years of receiving benefits

During today’s hearing, you’ll likely hear rhetoric about the huge growth in the SSDI rolls. It’s true that SSDI is serving more people, but this growth is almost entirely due to changes in demographics. Anew study puts this in stark numbers: increases over the past four decades are almost entirely (90 percent) due to population growth, the aging of the baby boom generation into the high-disability years, and the entry of women in the workforce in greater numbers in the 1970s and 80s so that more are now insured based on their own contributions. Together, these three factors account for 94% of growth from 1990 – 2008. 

. . ."

Social Security disability fraud is rare  The Hill