The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently commissioned an independent review of the federal disability system due to concerns that the SSA awards benefits to those who may not be eligible for benefits and denies benefits for those who are eligible. The study is expected to focus on the approximately 1,500 administrative law judges who hear appeals of social security disability applicants who have been denied claims. The benefits awards granted by the administrative law judges vary greatly.
The independent review will be conducted by the Administrative Conference of the United States, an organization that studies government policy in Washington. The conference said it plans to release recommendations for overhauling the social security disability appeals process in the upcoming year.
Additionally, at the end of December 2011, the SSA announced that it would no longer notify applicants of their assigned administrative law judge in order to prevent applicants from trying to “shop” their appeals to the most lenient judges.
Administrative law judges working for the SSA are essentially appointed for life and enjoy wide discretion when deciding whether to award or deny benefits, with the disparities in outcomes and hearing processes employed among the judges prompting the call for an independent review. The Social Security disability review process can be incredibly confusing, but a knowledgeable social security disability attorney, like the Chicago social security disability law firm of Ankin Law Offices, LLC, can be invaluable at helping applicants navigate the maze of state and federal laws, regulations and procedures.
A draft of the study is expected in August 2012, with final recommendations released in November 2012. While the recommendations won’t be binding, they could serve as a game plan for changes to be adopted by the SSA and/or Congress.