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SSDI judges targeted for high rate of approvals

According to a recent report issued by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, some administrative law judges in the Social Security Administration have fallen into the costly habit of approving most of the disability claims that come before them. The cost of this “rubber-stamping” of disability claims is roughly $400 billion between 2005 and 2013.

Several of the judges targeted by the Committee reportedly approved over 90 percent of the cases that came before them. Many decisions were made without a hearing. The issue is a serious one, particularly because of growing financial burden on the disability trust fund, which is set to run out by 2016 unless changes are made.

Administrative law judges have an important role to play in the disability appeals process. Applicants for Social Security disability have already had their claim rejected twice before they go before a judge, first in the initial decision and then upon reconsideration. In a hearing, one has the opportunity to provide additional evidence to support one’s application and clarify information already provided. One has the opportunity to bring in witnesses to provide additional evidence, and to be represented by an attorney.

It is critical that administrative law judges carefully consider all claims that come before them, not only so that improper approvals don’t occur but also so that applicants are not improperly denied. While the latter is perhaps less of a danger, given the circumstances, it is still a possibility Social Security disability applicants need to be aware of. 

Source: The Washington Free Beacon, “Social Security Administration Rubber-Stamped $400 Billion in Disability Claims,” Elizabeth Harrington, June 10, 2014.Social Security Administration, “The Appeals Process,” Accessed June 13, 2014. 

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