Social Security Policy Wrong, Critics Charge

Article excerpt

Social Security is denying benefits to the disabled instead of cutting waste as a way to balance its books, a paid advocate for Social Security claimants charged Monday in Belleville.

As proof, he offered an internal document instructing Social Security's administrative law judges -- who decide disputed claims -- to follow their bosses' policies instead of federal court rulings when the two conflict.

"The agency doesn't want (administrative law judges) to follow the law because it can't pay the claims, and it can't pay the claims because the system is essentially broke," said Jim Allsup, founder and head of Allsup Inc. The Belleville company represents employers and individuals across the nation in disability insurance claims. The firm gets up to $4,000 from any retroactive benefits it wins for a client. The Social Security Administration insists it is acting properly in providing standard national guidelines that ensure consistency across varying federal court districts, where different precedents may be in effect. In law, decisions of appellate-level judges bind lower courts to do the same things in the same circumstances. Administrative judges are not part of the federal court system. Allsup said Social Security's policy is generally less generous than court precedent. For example, a court may have ruled a certain type of medical testimony admissible in a disability case, but Social Security's policy might expect an administrative judge to ignore or minimize it in a similar case, he said. …