I understand about fiscal conservatism, and that the government needs to cut back in certain areas, but why does it always seem as if we’re cutting back on benefits for the poor, the elderly, and the disabled?
Our law firm has handled thousands of Social Security disability claims. It is NOT easy to win those cases. You can’t get disability unless you can prove you are unable to perform ANY job available in the national economy. Not your old job, not a job you want, not a job that pays what you want to make, not even a job that’s available in the city where you live. If there’s a job for a ticket taker in a movie theater a thousand miles from where you live, you have to prove you can’t perform that job.
So why are we so determined to come up with new schemes to keep people from getting the Social Security disability benefits they’ve earned?
The latest attack on the disabled was detailed in the Wall Street Journal. Here are excerpts:
The agency is rewriting the job descriptions of its judicial corps, allowing officials more latitude to crack down on judges who are awarding disability benefits outside the norm.
Many judges have operated as if they were independent of the agency and awarded or denied benefits based on their own judgments. A few weeks ago, the SSA notified the judges of the changes.
The job descriptions will no longer include the words “complete individual independence,” and will also clarify that the judges are “subject to the supervision and management” of other agency officials, according to a draft reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The Social Security Disability Insurance program, funded by payroll taxes, pays monthly benefits—often until someone receives retirement benefits in their 60s—for people who can no longer work because of physical or mental health problems.
The union that represents many of the judges complains that the change will strip them of independence and open the process to political meddling. The judges are selected by the agency after a screening process, and their jobs tend to focus exclusively on hearing disability appeals and deciding whether or not to award benefits. In all, the judicial corps decides several hundred thousand cases each year.
The process of applying for benefits is complicated and multilayered. If someone is denied for benefits after an initial screening, they can appeal and request to have their case heard by an agency judge.
When the agency began tightening scrutiny over the judges two years ago, after publication of the Journal articles, many judges changed their behavior.
In 2010, for example, judges awarded benefits in 67% of their 585,855 decisions, according to federal data. By 2013, the award rate fell to 56%.
“The allowance rate right now is probably at a 40-year historic low,” Social Security Administration Deputy Commissioner Glenn Sklar said at a congressional hearing in November.