I have received enough reports privately from attorneys representing claimants who have been featured in media reports that I can say with some confidence that there has been a high level decision at Social Security to do everything possible to expedite the case of anyone featured in a news report. This is new. In the past, when I have had clients who were featured in media reports as best I could tell, there was no concerted effort to expedite things. If anything was done to speed up things, it was all a local decision. Now, orders are coming down from on high to make dramatic efforts to expedite review for individuals featured in media reports. Somewhat distressing is one report I received that an attorney whose clients were featured in a news article received an unsubtle threat of retaliation from the Social Security Administration.
While I am glad that these individuals are getting relief, this does not promote justice and equity. Most Social Security disability claimants do not want to talk with reporters. I have more compelling cases than any featured in media reports, and so does any other attorney with a full time Social Security practice, but those clients do not want to talk with the media. Even if all those with the most compelling cases were willing to talk with reporters, the media can only report on so many cases anyway.
It seems obvious to me that this response to media reports is happening now because of the political campaign. What we are seeing is politicization of Social Security -- or perhaps what we are seeing is evidence that Social Security is inherently political.
This is one of many things which suggests to me that Michael Astrue's horizon does not extend past the election. This does not mean that he will leave as Social Security Commissioner after the election, even if Obama is elected, but he is intensely focused upon the very short term and nothing else.
This is one more proof that the concept of Social Security as an independent agency is a failure.