Thursday, December 15, 2011

Social Security seeks to review the disability process

Over at the Wall Street Journal they are reporting that the Social Security Administration is obtaining an "independent" review of the disability hearing process. The article appears to emphasize that too many judges are approving cases at the hearing stage. It asserts that some judges approve 99% of claimants that have sought a hearing after a denial. Of course it also notes some judges approve very little like the judge who approves just 13% of the claims at the hearing stage. They indicate funds will run out by 2017 at the current rate but this statistic is open to dispute. Depending on your political persuasion Social Security is in such bad shape that we should phase it out or it is fine and with tweaks can last indefintely. I am closer to the latter then the former but that is a long story. I do know that judges have their own stats on granting/denying benefits. But concentrating on judges who grant benefits is not the right approach. Being concerned about too many favorable decisions but not those judges who deny excessively is too one sided. I am all for saving money but not at the expense of the truly disabled which I consider ghoulish. There should be some accountability for all judges. The article also points out that the federal courts seem to be overturning denials 51% of the time as if the federal judge is off base. My experience is just the reverse. Most federal judges who overturn a decision are quite right. Even the government attorneys often stipulate the SS judge made a mistake. SS judges do make mistakes and at times the denial of benefits seems off base. Implying the federal judge is interpreting the rules improperly is absurd. Most decisions are far better reasoned then the decision denying benefits. However to be fair many of these overturned decisions are just being sent back to the original SS judge for more workup on a remand. My experience with claimants is that the vast majority are truly disabled and unemployable so we should be focusing on speeding up the process (for time to a hearing click here)and quit trying to label Social Security as the problem. Instead we should be fixing it for all future generations.


Disability Attorney said...

In my experience, there definitely is a discrepancy in the approval rate of judges even within a particular state.

There is wiggle room in the SSA's definition of disability. However, I refuse accept the definition can be so widely interpreted that one judge is approving 20%, while another is approving 90%.

Social Security Disability Law Blog said...

I agree, it's ridiculous to think that one judge (who is approving 99% of claimants) just happens to be the judge over all those who are disabled. Meanwhile, another judge (denying 85%+ of claimants) just happens to be hearing cases for all those who don't meet the criteria for SS disability. Judge's approval rates should be fairly similar, no way should the "luck of the draw" on what ALJ you have determine whether you are or aren't going to get benefits