In an effort to improve consistency in the disability determination process, the Social Security Administration recently announced plans to step up its oversight of the administrative law judges who are responsible for awarding or denying disability benefits. The Social Security Disability Insurance program provides financial benefits to people who are unable to work because of a mental or physical disability. The program has increased substantially in the years since the U.S. economy took a downturn in 2008, and there are now approximately 11 million people receiving disability benefits nationwide.
To expand its oversight of the eligibility determination process, the SSA is rewriting the job descriptions of approximately 1,500 judges, who in the past have been given broad discretion over the outcome of eligibility hearings.
In recent years, these eligibility hearings have yielded notoriously unpredictable results. According to a 2011 report by the Wall Street Journal, an applicant’s likelihood of being awarded disability benefits can vary dramatically depending on the judge; while a handful of judges award benefits in nine cases out of ten, others deny benefits nearly as often.
The new job descriptions will include language stating that the judges are subject to supervision and will remove the words “complete individual independence,” the WSJ reported. It is hoped that the changes will increase accountability among the judges and allow the SSA to take corrective measures when judges award or deny benefits inappropriately.
Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1755266#ixzz2ukrGZ4Wy