Friday, December 27, 2013

WSJ: SSA cracking down on disability judges

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Social Security Administration is seeking to increase the agency’s control over the administrative law judges who decide many disability cases. In the wake of scandals in West Virginia and Puerto Rico, SSA is imposing new standards to generate more uniformity of standards from judge to judge and to reduce outliers who approve or disapprove applications at extraordinary rate. The Journal says:

The Social Security Administration, smarting from recent scandals, this weekend is set to tighten its grip on 1,500 administrative law judges to ensure that disability benefits are awarded consistently and to rein in fraud in the program.

The agency is rewriting the job descriptions of its judicial corps, allowing officials more latitude to crack down on judges who are awarding disability benefits outside the norm.

Many judges have operated as if they were independent of the agency and awarded or denied benefits based on their own judgments. A few weeks ago, the SSA notified the judges of the changes.

The job descriptions will no longer include the words "complete individual independence," and will also clarify that the judges are "subject to the supervision and management" of other agency officials, according to a draft reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal also has a blog item with more details.