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Judges sue Social Security Administration over disability process

Many Wisconsin residents can attest to the troubles that come with being overworked. Having too much on your plate at work can affect your personal life, your social life and your health--not to mention your performance on those actual work tasks. The latter is apparently a problem for Social Security disability administrative law judges, according to a lawsuit that was filed last week.

The administrative law judges who decide appeals of Social Security disability claim denials for the Social Security Administration say that quotas regarding their caseloads are way out of wack, and it is hindering their ability to accurately assess cases. The judges are reportedly required to decide as many as 700 appeals every year--or up to two daily--and they say that this makes it impossible to afford disability applicants due process. To put this into context, a single appeal may include about 500 pages of medical information and other documentation.

The SSA implemented the quotas for its 1400 administrative law judges several years ago in an effort to motivate the judges to plow through an ever-increasing backlog of cases. While the wait time for an appeal hearing has decreased significantly since the quotas began, disability applicants are still waiting as long as two years for hearings. The pressure on judges to get the work done, according to some, is leading judges to make poor decisions regarding individual cases.

What may come of this lawsuit remains to be seen. The very fact that such a lawsuit has been filed is a reminder of the difficulties facing the SSA and individuals here in Wisconsin who are in need of Social Security disability benefits. When people apply for disability benefits, applications go to local SSA offices that deny most claims. When applicants then file appeals, the cases are routed to the administrative law judges, who apparently do not have enough time to properly consider them.

It is important for those who decide disability cases to be able to do so both efficiently and accurately. Unfortunately, as many Wisconsin residents are aware, the SSA is having problems with both of those goals. This is one reason why those who are pursuing disability benefits may wish to consider seeking legal guidance.

Source: Baltimore Sun, "Judges sue Social Security over 'quotas' on disability decisions," Yvonne Wenger, April 28, 2013

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