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Congress Demands Better Oversight of SSA Disability Rulings


Posted on Oct 25, 2012

An October 2012 Huffington Post business report claims that Social Security disability claims are being awarded without proper medical evidence. A new congressional subcommittee report warns that this lack of oversight will only add to the threat of running out of government funds to operate the program. 

Sen. Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma, asserted, “The administrative law judges are not looking at the cases because the pressure from Social Security is to get the cases out. I think you could flip a coin for anybody that came before the Social Security commission for disability and get it right just as often as the [judges] do.”

Administrative law judges have been assigned a tremendous backlog of SSA disability cases. They are expected to review and decide on 500 or more cases each year. However, according to the report, one judge ruled on an average of 1,800 cases a year during a three-year period. The report claims that the judges have not always reviewed all of the evidence before making a decision. As a result, some disability applicants may have been awarded undeserved benefits. 

Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle explained, “We share the subcommittee’s concern that a small number of judges have failed our expectations with regard to a balanced application of the law, proper documentation, proper hearings and proper judicial conduct.” However, he also noted, “We have undertaken a vigorous set of quality initiatives since the time most of these cases were filed about five years ago, and data indicates that we have made substantial progress.”

Approximately 11 million Americans rely on Social Security disability benefits each month. This number represents more than a 23 percent increase in the last five years, according to the article. In addition, approximately 8.2 million people receive Supplemental Security Income. That disability program is in place to assist people with low incomes who do not have a “substantial” work history. The average monthly amounts per person for the two programs are slightly less than $1,000 for the former and slightly more than $500 for the latter. 

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John L. Keefe
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