Ability to Speak English Used in Determining Social Security Disability Eligibility

May 2, 2014 | Social Security Disability Insurance

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There are many factors that can go into the process of determining if someone qualifies for Social Security disability benefits. However, one senator says he believes an inability to speak English is resulting in disability claimants being fast-tracked for benefits approval.

The allegations came in a letter from the senator to the Social Security Administration’s Acting Commissioner, Carolyn Colvin. The letter claims the Social Security Act states that an individual’s educational level can be taken into consideration when qualifying an individual for disability benefits. Since learning to read and write English is typically learned in a school setting, the inability to do so may be fast-tracking certain applicants who can’t speak English through the system.

In an article from The Washington Free Beacon, several specific rulings were highlighted, including that of a man who spoke English during an on-the-record meeting with a judge. He asked that his case be continued in order to hire an attorney, which was granted. His attorney then later claimed at the hearing that his client could not speak English. The judge received a response of “no” through an interpreter, and the law did not allow the judge to question the claimant any further.

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