Report: Social Security wrongly awards $2B in disability claims

Social Security judges awarded disability benefits for close to 25,000 people who should not have received them, costing the government $2 billion, according to a forthcoming report from the Social Security Administration’s inspector general.

The number of judges who awarded the claims was relatively small. They accounted for roughly four percent of all administrative law judges, who decide the claims.

ADVERTISEMENT
Many of the individuals who benefited from the awards are still receiving benefits, and the government expects the cost of the decisions to grow by $300 million next year, according to the report to be released Monday.

The report also found that the agency has recently improved its oversight of the judges. Forty-four judges were investigated, after the agency concluded they were approving an abnormally high number of claims.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the outgoing chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requested the investigation.

"In failing to take meaningful disciplinary action at the Social Security Administration, even after the most egregious cases of mismanagement, taxpayers are left to wonder, who is looking after their tax dollars,” he said in a statement to the AP.

A Social Security spokeswoman noted that the judges make their decisions independent of the agency.

"The primary purpose for the ALJs qualified decisional independence is to enhance public confidence in the essential fairness of an agency's decision-making process,” said Social Security spokeswoman LaVenia J. LaVelle in a statement to the AP.

The agency’s judges have been handling a large number of cases in recent years as more Americans reach retirement. This means that judges often have a short amount of time in which to read a case’s documentation and decide a claim.

By the time the judges investigated in the report considered a claim, it had likely already been rejected at the state level.