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Social Security Administration addresses “judicial independence”

Our readers know that the Social Security Administration has been heavily criticized in recent years as the disability roll has grown, fraud has become a concern, and as the financial challenges of the disability trust fund have come into greater relief.

Consistency in decision-making has been another challenge the agency has identified. Back in 2011, it was reported that there was a significant disparity in the probability of being awarded disability benefits depending on the judge. Some judges are much more likely than others to approve disability claims, and the agency has since actively sought to identify and discipline or remove outlier judges. 

The Social Security Administration, in an effort to respond to concerns over consistency in disability rulings, is reportedly giving its officials more freedom to discipline judges who award disability benefits improperly or too easily. To this end, the agency is rewriting the job description it uses for its judges to convey that judges must work according to established standards and must be supervised in their work.

For their part, many SSA judges have pointed to heavy pressure from the agency to process huge caseloads quickly, saying that accuracy is difficult under the pressure to work with large caseloads. Interestingly, the efforts of the agency to reign in abuse and mistakes by judges are not expected to have a lot of effect in terms of reducing costs for the disability program.

Those who apply for disability benefits deserve to receive a fair shake, particularly in making their case on appeal when necessary. Working with an experienced SSDI attorney can help.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Government Pulls in Reins On Disability Judges,” Damian Paletta, December 26, 2013. 

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