Congressional aides say an over-emphasis on clearing up Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program appeal backlogs is hurting the solvency of the program.
The aides — part of the staff at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — argue many of the administrative law judges (ALJs) that hear the appeals are handling too many cases, and that some are dealing with unrealistic performance goals by awarding benefits to too many people.
See also: SSDI judge describes lack of information
Many private disability insurances like to see the SSDI program help genuinely qualified applicants as quickly as possible. Private insurers look at SSDI determinations when assessing the people getting private policy benefits, and many private insurers coordinate policy benefits with SSDI. A private insurer may subtract part or all of SSDI benefits payments from the benefits it pays a claimant.
The House Oversight staffers looked at “focused reviews” by the Social Security Administration (SSA) of 48 of the 1,400 administrative law judges who hear benefits rejection appeals. SSA officials conduct focused reviews when they believe there are reasons for concern about a judge’s performance.
All 1,400 ALJs combined awarded benefits worth an average of about $300,000 to 3.2 million claimants from 2005 through 2013. The overall appeal approval rate was about two-thirds.
Thirty of the judges who were the target of focused reviews had “red flags” because they approved more than 75 percent of the benefits requests they received.