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Social Security Disability judge put on leave

An administrative law judge that hears Social Security Disability appeals cases has been put on paid leave by the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration began an investigation of the administrative law judge just over two weeks ago. The investigation came in response to an article published by the Wall Street Journal that detailed the federal judge's history of approving the vast majority of his cases.

The administrative law judge is based in Huntington, West Virginia and is one of 1,500 judges that specifically hears Social Security Disability appeals cases. The Social Security Administration investigation is focused on the judge's disability benefits rulings and whether the judge made his rulings according to the standards set by the administration.

Within the first six months of the fiscal year of 2011, the judge approved Social Security Disability benefits in all 729 appeals cases he heard. Over the previous year, the judge denied disability benefits in four cases and awarded disability benefits in the 1,284 cases he decided. The average rate of approval for disability benefits cases is around 60 percent.

Judges that hear Social Security Disability cases are not usually removed from their positions and are supposed to be independent of the Social Security Administration. The judge at issue became an administrative law judge that heard disability cases in 1990. The judge explained that the string of approvals for the current year was coincidence and that he would not award disability benefits unless the medical evidence met the burden of proof.

The judge also said that lawyers have figured out "the combination to the lock" in that they normally bring cases that win benefits.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Disability judge put on leave from post," Damian Paletta, 5/27/11

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