SSA investigates Social Security Disability judge

The Social Security Administration has begun an investigation of a Social Security Disability judge with a high award rate. The investigation operated by the Social Security Administration’s inspector general’s office was initiated when United States Senator Orrin Hatch questioned the process of how Social Security Disability benefits are awarded and the high rate of appeals approved by one administrative law judge.

The administrative law judge under question is Judge David B. Daugherty. The 75-year-old judge is one of 1,500 administrative law judges that hear Social Security Disability appeals cases and determine whether applicants qualify for federal disability benefits. On average administrative law judges across the country that hear disability benefits appeals cases approve around 60 percent of their cases or in other words about 60 percent of applicants who were originally denied and appeal their cases are granted awards.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Daugherty has an approval rate of 99.7 percent for the fiscal year of 2010. In the first six months of the current fiscal year he has awarded federal disability benefits in all 729 of his cases. Mr. Daugherty is not the only administrative law judge with a high award rate. Nearly 100 administrative law judges that hear disability appeals cases have awarded benefits in 90 percent of their cases.

In a political environment filled with rhetoric about austerity, Congressional representatives are calling for a review of the disability benefits appeals process. Critics of the current system say it is not well overseen and awards are given subjectively. At the same time, the Social Security Administration has asked judges to do more with less and have pressured judges to reduce the backlog of 730,000 cases. The judge under question is located in West Virginia.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Disability judge spurs benefits investigation,” Damian Paletta, 5/20/11

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