Over the past several months, federal lawmakers and regulators have questioned the actions of numerous administrative judges who regularly decide whether individuals should be approved for Social Security Disability benefits or not. A new report indicates that certain cases heard by these judges lack rationale in favor of individuals applying for benefits that is ultimately well-supported. When judges are criticized for awarding too many individuals SSD benefits and are also criticized for making well-deserving applicants wait too long to receive approval, one wonders whether or not judges should be subjected to stricter scrutiny.
Sitting as a judge associated with a federal program that tends to be criticized on a regular basis is not easy. The process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits is often arduous and claims are regularly denied for even the smallest factual errors or administrative missteps. Is it judges who should be scrutinized more rigorously or is it the system as a whole that is in need of reform? This question is both legitimate and difficult to answer.
The new report indicates that only four percent of judges studied over a period of seven years who have both decided an unusually significant number of SSD cases and have awarded an unusually significant number of applicants with the benefits they have requested. The fact that this percentage of judges is so small suggests that it is perhaps the system that is in need of reform as opposed to the corps of judges that aids in serving it. However, that is simply one factor within the equation that should be studied before any sweeping conclusions are drawn.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “New Report Could Increase Scrutiny of Social Security Disability Judges,” Damian Paletta, Nov. 14, 2014