Given the number of misguided and misleading attacks targeting Social Security Disability programs in recent months, it would be easy to dismiss yesterday’s Senate subcommittee report claim that the Social Security Administration is improperly approving disability benefits more than 25 percent of the time as just one more example of those same shenanigans.
In truth, however, the Senate subcommittee’s findings are consistent with the results of a 2011 internal review conducted by the SSA, which found that its administrative law judges issued determinations based on inadequate reviews in 22 percent of disability cases.
While acknowledging that the report’s findings do not necessarily mean that all of the approved claims containing insufficient or confliction information should have been denied — subcommittee member Sen. Tom Coburn said the findings strongly suggest that inadequate administration law judge reviews and lack of SSA oversight are resulting in the approval of a significant number of claims that should be denied each year.
In addition to criticism, the report also offered a number of recommended changes, including updated standards for disability payments, a stronger quality-review process and a requirement for a separate government representative to be present at all disability hearings presided over by administrative law judges.
A change that might be even more beneficial, however, would be for the SSA to hire additional administrative law judges to help clear the huge backlog of disability benefits applications currently sitting in limbo. This would take a tremendous amount of pressure off the agency’s judges and give them more time to conduct thorough reviews and hearings.
Source: The Hill, “Report: Disability benefits wrongly awarded,” Sam Baker, Sept. 18, 2012