The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced late last year that toys were safer for the holiday season then they had been in years, but just because the holidays are over and all the presents are unwrapped does not mean parents can let up paying attention to their children’s playthings.
Injuries and recalls of dangerous toys are down for a number of reasons. New safeguards have limited the use of lead, third-party testing has highlighted problematic toys and the Department of Homeland Security is helping to track shipments leading to more toy seizures. The agency also set tight limits on the use of some phthalates and cadmium.
Toy recalls were down sharply in FY 2011. Only 34 toys were recalled last year – down from 46 in 2010, 50 in 2009 and 172 in 2008, according to a CPSC release.
Toys with small parts, balls and balloons continue to be the most problematic, according to CPSC chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum. Toys that are inappropriate for certain age groups can be deadly. There are about 15 toy-related fatalities every year and half of those are attributed to choking on balls and balloons.
“Strong toy standards support the production of safer toys in the marketplace,” Tenenbaum said. “Parents and toy shoppers also always need to be vigilant by choosing age-appropriate toys and keeping small parts, balls, and balloons out of the hands of young children.”
Deflated balloons should always be discarded immediately. Toys with small parts can be a dangerous choking hazard and should be kept away from children under 3.
Children under 6 years old should be kept away from magnets, which if swallowed can be potentially harmful and possibly fatal, according to the CPSC.
More than 180,000 children under 15-years-old went to the emergency room in 2010 because of toy-related injuries. More than any other toy, non-motorized scooters sent more kids to the ER with lacerations and broken bones, according to the CPSC press release.
Riding toys including scooters, skateboards and in-line skates should be used only with appropriate safety gear like helmets and knee pads. Safety gear should be fitted properly by an adult.
Even though the main gift-giving month is over, the CPSC advises diligence from parents as toys are exchanged or bought with gift cards received during the holidays. Now that parents have a house full of toys, it is important for parents of children of different ages to keep toys separated from younger siblings that can be hurt by them.
Federal administrative law judges who hear Social Security Disability appeals have widely ranging records that may indicate unfairness in the appeals process.
The Social Security Administration is commissioning a review of the entire disability system to make sure it is not awarding benefits to those who do not deserve it and to make sure the agency is not denying benefits to those who do deserve them.
The SSA will review the work of about 1,500 disability appeals judges across the country whose rates vary significantly from the norm. Some judges award benefits less than 20 percent of the time while others award benefits almost 100 percent of the time, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.
The Administration has already decided to stop notifying applicants who their judge will be in their appeal to discourage shopping an appeal to a more lenient judge.
The Administrative Conference of the United States will take on the review. The independent government study organization hopes to make recommendations for updating the appeals process in 2012.
The Social Security Disability Insurance program provides financial assistance to Americans who cannot work. The Wall Street Journal reported that the program paid $130 billion in 2011 to 10.6 million people.
If a case comes before a federal Social Security judge, it has already been denied twice at the state level. There is a tremendous backlog of cases at the federal level.
In September of 2011, there were more than 771,000 people waiting for their appeal to be heard. The SSA has been working to address the backlog issues and it has cut down on the number of people who die while they wait for their appeal to be judged, according to the WSJ.
The hearings usually last about an hour. Some critics have said judges pushing cases through much more quickly than that are cutting corners and not doing thorough reviews. The conference plans to factor how much time judges look at cases into its review.
The SSA’s commissioner told Congress in the summer of 2011 that judges awarding disability benefits more than 85 percent of the time cost the agency another $1 billion a year. The Wall Street Journal reports that there are more than 100 judges whose award percentages are that high.
Overall, the federal court system is finding errors or overturning about half of the decisions made by Social Security judges. The independent study will review how the federal courts are looking at the cases to make sure it is interpreting the SSA’s rules consistently, according to the WSJ. A qualified Social Security Disability attorney can help clients file appeals with the agency.