The Social Security Administration has commissioned an independent review of the federal disability system amid concerns it awards benefits to those who don’t deserve them and denies benefits to those who do.
A focus of the study is expected to be the work of roughly 1,500 administrative-law judges, who hear appeals by applicants but whose award rates vary widely.
The administrative-law judges, who work for the Social Security Administration, are essentially appointed for life and have wide discretion to award or deny benefits based on their interpretation of each case.
One such judge, in Houston, awarded benefits in 13% of his cases last year, according to federal data, while another judge, in Kingsport, Tenn., awarded benefits in 99% of his decisions. The average approval rate is around 60%.
A draft of the study is due in August and the final recommendations are to be released in November. The recommendations won’t be binding, but they could serve as a blueprint for changes by either the SSA or Congress.
Another focus of the study will be why federal courts are overturning many of the decisions that Social Security judges make when they deny benefits. In 2010, federal courts overturned or found errors in 51% of the roughly 12,000 Social Security appeals they decided, according to Robert Rains, a law professor at Penn State University.
Before a case can be appealed to Federal Court the Social Security internal appeal process to it’s Appeals Council must be completed and the appeal rejected by the Appeals Council. My opinion about why the federal courts are overturning more cases appealed to the Courts is that the Appeals Council has been significantly expanded in an effort to decrease the the backlog of cases and .less qualified people are reviewing decisions. As a result, more cases at the Appeals Council with errors are coming through giving attorneys no alternative than appealing to the federal court poor decisions.
William Wombacher, your Central Illinois Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Social Security Disability Specialist. I’ll help you! www..wombacherlaw.com