Administrative Law Judges Waste Billions by Granting Most Disability Appeals

By Westwood, Sarah | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, December 22, 2014 | Go to article overview

Administrative Law Judges Waste Billions by Granting Most Disability Appeals


Westwood, Sarah, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Wasteful and fraudulent disability payments are well-documented problems, but a congressional probe has found that they often result when administrative law judges in the federal bureaucracy approve previously rejected claims.

The Social Security Administration discovered deficiencies in appeals decisions from every ALJ it has reviewed since 2011, according to a report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

All 48 of the individual reviews found the ALJs wrongly evaluated applicants' ability to work and discounted drug addiction or alcoholism, among other missteps.

Congressional investigators built on a June 2014 report that conducted three case studies of ALJs who "rubber-stamped" almost every appeal they evaluated. By granting disability benefits to just 100 people who aren't actually disabled, the trio added $30 million to the federal budget.

The 1,400 judges who handled disability appeals handed out benefits to more than 3.2 million people between 2005 and 2013, granting the requests of more than half of all applicants at a cost of nearly $1 trillion.

What's more, investigators discovered 191 judges had approved 85 percent or more of the appealed applications that came across their desks.

The only way SSA gauged the performance of the judges was by adding up the number of cases a judge oversaw in a given time period, according to May 2013 testimony by Frank Cristaudo, a former chief administrative law judge. …

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