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Social Security Administration commissions SSDI review

Concerns have been raised that the Social Security Disability system is not working as it should. To address those concerns, the Social Security Administration has commissioned a review of the federal disability system by an independent entity. The Administrative Conference of the United States will perform the review and make recommendations next year.

One aspect of the study that Pittsburgh residents may find interesting will be review of the approximately 1,500 administrative-law judges who hear SSDI claims appeals.

The award rates vary greatly from judge to judge and there is concern that some are getting receiving benefits who do not need them and others are who do need the benefits are being denied. Part of the concern stems from the difference in time of review, which can vary from a few minutes to more than an hour.

The administrative-law judges hear cases from applicants who have been denied twice at the state level. They are appointed for life and award or deny benefits with great freedom of interpretation. According to federal data, one judge awarded benefits in only 13 percent of cases last year while another denied benefits in only 1 percent of appeals heard. While Social Security Administration officials have said in the past that little could be done about outlier judges, the review will hopefully yield some suggestions for improvement of policy and guidelines.

Part of the problem with the Social Security Disability system is the huge backlog from what seems to be an almost unmanageable number of applicants. In the past year, the backlog has almost doubled. Some judges have complained privately that the push to speed cases along has resulted in less-than-thorough hearings.

The study is projected to be released in November of 2012 and will hopefully give recommendations for change.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Disability-Benefits System Faces Review," Damian Paletta, Dec. 15, 2011

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