William R. Morton has done a report for the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on "An Overview of Proposals to Reduce the Growth in SSDI [Social Security Disability Insurance] Rolls." The report is impressively footnoted but to say it breaks no new ground would be an understatement. I keep thinking I must have read this before even though it's brand new.
Morton accepts the premise that the Social Security Disability Reform Act of 1984 relaxed the criteria for approval based upon mental illness or musculoskeletal ailments even though a simple reading of that Act shows that it did nothing of the sort. Apparently, Morton never bothered with simple reading the Act.
Morton also has a poor understanding of the proposals that have been on the table since forever. For instance, Morton examines the possibility of making Social Security hearings before Administrative Law Judges adversarial. He thinks an experiment with adversarial hearings might be a good idea. Morton is aware that an experiment was tried previously but he is clearly unaware of the results -- a lot of expense but no effect upon the rate at which disability claims were approved -- a point made recently by former Commissioner Astrue. Why didn't Morton ask someone at Social Security what happened when this was tried previously? Morton is also unaware that since the time of that prior experiment the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) has been passed. Because of EAJA, if Social Security went to adversarial hearings, the agency would end up paying the attorney fees for most claimants who got approved. In my view, bring on the adversarial hearings. They wouldn't hurt my clients but they would sure help my bottom line!
The biggest thing reassuring me about the future of the Social Security disability programs is the unsophisticated nature of its opposition. There's a good chance that even though Republicans want to make it harder to get Social Security disability benefits, unsophisticated reports like this one will cause them to stumble into unworkable proposals or even into proposals that are contrary to their goals. I have yet to read a study or proposal that worries me. They're all stale rehashings of ideas which have already failed or ideas which haven't been tried because they're so obviously unworkable.