Government Report: Social Security Judges Approve Nearly All Disability Claims, Even if Questionable; “Large Scale Reform” Needed


A new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released Thursday, claims that many Social Security Administration (SSA) judges rubber stamp nearly every disability claim that comes before them – even if the recipient was denied by experts multiple times at lower tiers of the approval process.

The report accuses the judges of “gross incompetence” and of threatening the solvency of the program for people who actually need the benefits. From the Washington Post:

The Social Security Administration allows certain judges to stay on the job despite rubber-stamping nearly all of the requests for benefits they see, sometimes from people who’ve already been denied two times, a scathing report by House investigators said Thursday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and departing chairman of the House oversight committee, released the report to sum up his panel’s long-running scrutiny of administrative law judges at the agency.

His report said judges who demonstrate “gross incompetence” have potentially cost taxpayers billions of dollars, threatening the solvency of the Social Security Disability Insurance program and the Supplemental Security Income program, which together serve nearly 20 million Americans and dole out $200 billion in benefits each year.

The average lifetime disability benefit is estimated at $300,000, so “any improper decisions that award benefits are incredibly costly for the program and for taxpayers,” the report said.

Part of the problem, according to the report, is a culture within the SSA that encourages quantity of claims over quality of review. From WaPo:

Mr. Issa is worried that too many the judges are granting claims from people who already were turned away by one or two experts at a lower tier of the process, largely because the agency encourages judges to clear as many cases as they can.

A culture of “quantity” over “quality” drives up spending and puts deserving beneficiaries at risk, he said.

“As a result of the agency’s emphasis on high volume adjudications over quality decision-making, the credibility of the disability appeals process has been eroded, and needs large-scale reform,” his report said.

The report can be read here.

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