Thousands of individuals denied Social Security disability benefits after submitting to a medical exam by Dr. Frank Chen may soon be given the opportunity to have their denied claims re-evaluated as a result of a recent legal settlement. These claimants include those who were examined between 2007 and 2013 by Dr. Frank Chen at one of Social Security’s clinics located in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Luis Obispo County, including Northstate, Health Analysis, Priority, Pacific Health Clinic, or any other clinic at which they were seen by Dr. Chen. As part of the settlement, the Social Security Administration will be sending out notices to individuals entitled to the re-evaluation.
The settlement was achieved by Justice in Aging and the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, with pro bono assistance from the San Francisco based law firm of Morrison and Foerster, who prevailed in the federal court class action against Social Security. For many years, Social Security sent disability claimants to consultative examinations performed by Dr. Frank Chen. Dr. Chen was censured for not performing thorough exams and for making religious comments during examinations. Ultimately, Dr. Chen was removed from the approved panel of examining doctors in 2013. Although the SSA knew the examinations and resulting reports were possibly biased or incomplete, the SSA adjudicators, at all levels, continued to use Dr. Chen’s reports as a basis to deny disability.
Northern District of California Judge Jon Tigar signed the final order on April 25, 2017, settling the class action against Social Security. The class contains “all persons whose SSI or SSDI benefits were either denied or terminated and for whom a consultative examination was prepared on their claim for SSI or SSDI benefits and for whom a consultative examination was prepared by Dr. Chen.” Kevin Hart et al v. Nancy A. Berryhill. Social Security, as part of the settlement, must contact every person examined by Dr. Chen and who subsequently received a denial or cessation of disability benefits. Social Security must provide every such denied claimant detailed information about his or her current rights. These rights differ depending on when and at what level of appeal the claim was denied.
If you receive a notice from Social Security in the coming weeks about your rights regarding an improper examination by Dr. Chen, promptly contact a local attorney to discuss your options. The process differs for each class of people. You may have the right to present new medical records and reports to prove your disability. Alternatively, a new hearing may be set before a Social Security Judge to re-evaluate your case. In some cases, Social Security may owe you disability benefits for the entire back period of time. If you have any questions about this settlement, please call the LaPorte Law Firm or send us an inquiry on our website at www.laportelawfirm.com.