Sep 1, 2015

"The Ticking Time Bomb" Of Social Security Disability

     Harold Pollack has a lengthy article in The Atlantic on what he refers to as "the ticking time bomb" of Social Security disability. It's a more sophisticated article than most. However, Pollack clearly spent a lot of time listening to right wing advocates who are on the payrolls of insurance companies. I don't understand why anyone would think that forcing individuals or their employers to purchase private disability insurance would be a plausible solution for anything. Honestly, I can't understand why the insurance companies think it makes business sense to invest even small amounts of money on a proposition whose adoption is so wildly improbable.
     Anyway, here are two interesting graphs from the article.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

"SSDI provides health coverage and vocational services that many people obviously need." SSDI provides vocational services? That people need? Bzzt. Wrong.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the fact that newer ALJs have a lower acceptance rate comes as a surprise to anyone. Most of these newer ones are not jurists but bureaucrats. A good deal of the new ones I have dealt with are young insiders who are hoping to make a career by obeying the Commissioner's will as opposed to the law.

Anonymous said...

That newer ALJ acceptance rate graph certainly appears to be the "smoking gun" to show that, yes, there is political pressure to deny more claims. It can't be coincidence only that the new batch of ALJs all became tougher together on their own.

Anonymous said...

oh please, there's no "smoking gun"

ALJs were paying cases that weren't legally or medically supportable. The ALJs felt bad for people who were out of work, and in all likelihood are unemployable, but are NOT disabled as defined by SSA. Reps got lazy knowing 70% of their cases that got to a hearing were getting paid, so they stopped developing the record. Huntingdon hit. Now, cases aren't supposed to go out the door unless they are fully supported. This isn't pressure to deny more claims; it's pressure to follow the laws/regulations that weren't being followed previously. And please, the vast majority of new hires have been outsiders, so don't give me that insider drone argument.

Anonymous said...

+1 New ALJs are trained better and are actually following the law.

Don't know wtf you are talking about with insiders... the current cert is all prosecutors and JAG its all litigators OPM doesn't credit admin law experience nearly as much as lit. Attorney advisor decision writer is a dead end job. Btw from a rep point of view, from any point of view, who would be a better SSA judge a person who has been dealing with the regs and writing the decisions for a decade or a person who has been litigating for decade? Why do you want litigation experience? It's non adversarial no one is representing the government.

wtf are you talking about hoping to make a career by obeying the comish everyone knows once you make ALJ you are untouchable. Please name any judge fired period let alone for paying cases or not. Assuming your theory is true no need to care about the comish.

Anonymous said...

1:11: please provide support that ALJs were "paying cases that weren't legally or medically supportable." Or is your "proof" your same keen observation that lead you to your "lazy rep" theory.

I'm sorry, but the numbers in that chart speak for themselves. You can't tell me that within the last five years that new ALJs are suddenly now just choosing to properly follow the law.

Anonymous said...

156 that's not what I'm telling you Im telling you that within the last 5 years is when all the 2008-2011 recession apps finally hit the hearing level more people got denied because everyone who got laid off in 08-11 applied for disability when they were really just unemployed.

There can be alternate explanations other than what you are offering. I see the conspiracy in the comments on here a lot that agency management pressures ALJs to pay less its just not true. As previously stated ALJs face no credible threat of discipline. The agency can't even make ALJs type out their instructions to writers they hand write if they want, they can't make them schedule a certain number of hearings, they can't make them use vocational experts, they can't make them do anything let alone quit paying.

Anonymous said...

i've worked at SSA for 6 years in ODAR, various levels, now management. I have NEVER once heard any mention, reference, pressure, etc. toward any ALJ to deny a case. I have heard a lot of discussion about following the law. The commenters that think there is a conspiracy are delusional. The only thing that has changed is better training and more focus on "legally sufficient" decisions, something that shocks many old-time judges but new judges (mostly) buy into.

Johnny Cash said...

@1:41 pm I think what the poster meant by insiders is people who have sucked from the government teet since they left law school, not necessarily SSA insiders. If you feel beholden to the government for your existence, you will drink whatever koolaid they serve you.

Anonymous said...

I'm bringing more cases up to the AC and Federal Court lately. Considering my merit criteria for doing that, which is very strict, that means I am seeing a greater number of really bad ALJ unfavorable decisions than I have in the past. That being the case, many ALJs are doing a fine job. A big chunk of the bad decisions I see come from a relatively small number ALJs who keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Anonymous said...

I keep calling the new ALJs CPAs. They did not receive law degrees that allow them to apply logic and nuance to difficult cases (which is the whole reason I pursued law as a career). Instead, they are often of a bureaucratic mindset that says, for instance, cancer was diagnosed on 1/12/14. I can't grant benefits before 1/12/14 because before that it was just the claimant's word about the symptoms. Even if the symptoms were talked about in the medical records.

Only a bureaucratic automaton would credibly argue that cancer or rheumatoid arthritis developed on the day it was diagnosed. The new ALJs are often devoid of logic and common sense. This is why we see people with conditions like Huntington's disease being denied benefits.

Anonymous said...

Truth is...the GOP Congress has made this a political football by kicking the can down the road. They need to act and act fast. Any politician found guilty of voting against SSDI will commit political suicide. I blame it on the GOP Congress if it doesn't get funded.

Anonymous said...

It seems very plausible to me that at least part of the decline is due to a change in culture among judges. But before I conclude that, I'd want to consider a few other possibilities:
How long does it take the recession backlog to work its way to and through the ALJ level? Is there some reason offices with larger backlogs are likely to be associated with a higher proportion of cases that have been appealed even though they should be denied? If so, how are new ALJ's allocated? Do the offices with larger backlogs tend to get assigned a larger share of the new ALJs? The huge recession might have had a lot of unexpected effects on the patterns we see in award rates, so the statistics need to be looked at with caution.

Anonymous said...

Aljs are assigned based on space. The union has bargained for certain sizes of office so they are assigned based on open offices. If a hearing office has a huge backlog but no open offices they don't get new judges however that mega backlogged case will begin to throw cases via video hearing to an nhc but claimants can still decline a video hearing. The cases I'm writing now the claimant generally first applied in 2012-13 but my office's backlog isn't especially egregious

M said...

Charles, didn't you post awhile back a study that had been done of what became, over some number of years (3?, 5?, don't quite recall) of SSDI ALJ denials? I seem to recall that maybe half (or more) didn't earn above SGA during the study period, and that a substantial proportion didn't earn anything at all. Could you re-post the link to that study to refresh the collective memory? And how many of those "denieds" are now "living" under bridges and in cardboard boxes? Jeez, get a grip, people!