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Social Security judges face tough questions in Congress

Some residents of Wisconsin may be familiar with the process of applying for Social Security Disability. Currently, nearly 11 million disabled people receive Social Security Disability benefits, and an additional 8.4 million receive Supplemental Security Income. However, some analysts believe that the Social Security Disability program is nearing insolvency and that action will need to be taken to prevent a 20 percent reduction in benefits by 2016.

The House Oversight Committee has been holding hearings intended to investigate reports that administrative judges have been approving claims without adequately reviewing them first. In one case, a judge was accused of approving 99 percent of the cases he received between 2005 and 2013, which amounted to nearly $1.8 billion in benefits distributed to claimants. Some congressional investigators maintain that such high approval rates are at least partially to blame for the program's fiscal difficulties.

Several of the judges defended their actions during the hearings, stating that they considered each case carefully with an emphasis on the suffering of the claimant. When asked why they approved disability appeals that had been previously rejected by state office workers, one of the judges replied that those workers likely lacked the legal training necessary to accurately assess the claims being made.

As this latest round of hearings serves to emphasize, it is entirely possible for disability claimants with legitimate medical requirements to be met with skepticism, if not outright rejection. The inability to work can inflict significant hardship on the life of a disabled person and his or her family, and in many cases, securing SSD benefits is their only hope of sustaining themselves. If someone is denied Social Security Disability benefits, an attorney may be able to help them appeal the refusal and prepare the documentation necessary to overturn the decision.

Source: ABC News, "Report: Social Security Judges Rubber-Stamp Claims", Stephen Ohlemacher, June 10, 2014

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