Driven to reduce a huge backlog of disability claims, Social Security is pushing judges to award benefits to people who may not deserve them, several current and former judges told Congress Thursday.
Larry Butler, an administrative law judge from Fort Myers, Fla., called the system "paying down the backlog."
A former Social Security judge, J.E. Sullivan, said, "The only thing that matters in the adjudication process is signing that final decision." Sullivan is now an administrative law judge for the Department of Transportation.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating why many judges have high approval rates for claims already rejected twice by field offices or state agencies. Two current and two former judges spoke at a subcommittee hearing. ...
None of the judges who testified spoke of being specifically ordered to award claims. Three said they had been pressured to decide cases without fully reviewing medical files.
The judges described a system in which there is very little incentive to deny claims, but lots of pressure to approve them. It requires more documentation to deny a claim than to approve one, said Sullivan, the former Social Security judge. Also, rejected claims can be appealed while approved claims are not.