New Report Puts Focus on Relatively Small Number of Questionable Disability Awards

Law Firm Newswire



Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) December 17, 2014 – A handful of judges have been found to have approved large numbers of dubious cases and benefits.

The Social Security Administration’s inspector general issued a report on November 17 finding a significant number of disability cases approved by certain judges did not have “a well-supported rationale” for awarding benefits. According to the report, 44 judges over seven years were deemed to have decided an unusually large number of disability cases and awarded an unusually high number of benefits.

More specifically, the report examined 275 cases and found 216 of them to have had “quality issues” and another 28 that were “missing information that prevented us from reviewing the file.” As a result of the study, the inspector general concluded that 38 of the cases should have ultimately been denied.

Through use of the foregoing numbers, the inspector general extrapolated that the SSA “improperly allowed disability payments on approximately 24,900 cases, resulting in questionable costs of about $2 billion.” During the period examined, though, the SSA awarded new disability benefits to 6.6 million people, so the projected number represents only 0.4 percent of all cases. Further, the 44 judges suspected of having awarded questionable benefits comprise just 4 percent of all administrative law judges who decide disability claims.

“The small number of judges involved relative to the much larger number of all judges who determine disability cases suggests that the improperly awarded benefits are isolated cases,” said David W. Magann, a prominent attorney in Tampa, Fla., who specializes in disability law. “The fact that the questionable disability cases represent a minuscule percentage of the total number of cases further drives home that point.”

The statistics focusing on a sliver of red-flag cases against the backdrop of a program whose benefits are overwhelmingly justified will, nonetheless, likely draw greater congressional scrutiny to the SSA. And comments by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the outgoing chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the panel that initiated the investigation, were ominous.

“In failing to take meaningful disciplinary action at the Social Security Administration, even after the most egregious cases of mismanagement, taxpayers are left to wonder, who is looking after their tax dollars,” Issa said in a statement to the Associated Press.

The report also suggested that the cost of the decisions made by the 44 judges is expected to grow by $300 million next year.

“The numbers highlighted in the government report draw attention away from the bigger picture of a program that millions of honest Americans depend on and deserve,” Magann said. Unfortunately, some public officials will choose to dwell on the misleading figures in order to score political points.”

Learn more at David W. Magann, P.A. Main Office: 156 West Robertson Street Brandon, FL 33511 Call: (813) 657-9175 Tampa Office: 18715 N Dale Mabry Hwy Lutz, FL 33548
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