Most Americans would agree that the Social Security Disability system is somewhat flawed. We hear horror stories about deserving applicants waiting years before their disability benefits to begin due to the fact that they must fight the SSA in order to obtain the benefits they are entitled to. On the other hand, we also hear stories about people who are not truly disabled receiving the Social Security Disability payments that come out of taxpayer pockets. According to the Wall Street Journal, this is not an issue that has gone unnoticed. As a result, in 2012, the Social Security Disability system will be undergoing an independent review.
Who is conducting this review of the Social Security Disability system? The Administrative Conference of the United States, also referred to as ACUS, is the agency that will be handling this review. After reviewing the current Social Security Disability system, ACUS will provide the SSA with advice regarding how to overhaul the system in November.
According to reports, the focus of this study will be the significant differences in the award ratios between the SSA’s administrative law judges. Statistics have proven that some judges seem to be more lenient than others. As a result of this fact, the SSA has decided that they will no longer notify applicants or their attorneys which judge their case has been assigned to in order to prevent Social Security lawyers from trying to “shop” for the judges with the highest award ratios.
The study will also be focusing on why federal courts are often overturning the decisions that are made by the administrative law judges who handle disability hearings. In 2010 alone, the federal courts either found errors or overturned more than half of the appeals that were brought before the courts. ACUS is hoping to determine why the decisions were overturned and how the errors occurred in order to prevent such issues from arising in the future, which may result in benefits being awarded more quickly to those who are indeed eligible for them.
On the other hand, the review may result in fewer federal court appeals being won since the SSA feels that the courts are interpreting rules in their own way and not in a way that is consistent with the intent of the way the rules were created by the SSA. If the SSA and the federal court come to an understanding that is in favor of the SSA, it may mean a lower chance of success for applicants at the federal court level of appeals. Hopefully this will not be the case.
Hopefully the review will result in the SSA being able to award benefits more quickly to those who deserve them and weed out applicants who are truly not in need of disability benefits. While that is what the current system is intended to do, the fact of the matter is that the current system obviously doesn’t do what it is supposed to. Applicants can only hope that this review will result in positive changes in coming years.