Misplaced Priorities: How the Social Security Administration Sacrificed Quality for Quantity in the Disability Determination Process

Published: Dec 18, 2014

Key Findings:

·         All of the 48 ALJ focused reviews conducted by SSA and reviewed by Committee staff showed numerous deficiencies in ALJ decision-making and several disturbing patterns. ALJs conducted few or inadequate hearings, misused vocational experts, failed to properly assess work ability and relied too heavily on medical briefs prepared by claimants’ paid representatives. (p. 13)

·         SSA continues to allow ALJs to decide cases even when they demonstrate gross incompetence or negligence in handling their responsibilities.  In several cases, SSA did not inform the ALJ about the negative focused review for over eight months after the review was completed. (p. 28)

·         SSA was singularly focused on churning out a large volume of dispositions, which led to inappropriate benefit awards. In 2007, the agency directed ALJs to decide 500 to 700 decisions each year, without conducting any study to determine how long it takes ALJs to evaluate cases and issue informed decisions.

·         SSA encouraged ALJs to take shortcuts in deciding cases to increase the amount of decisions issued each year. The agency promoted on-the-record decisions, which do not require a hearing, and bench decisions, which do not require a written opinion, to increase the number of decisions issued.

You can read the complete report here.

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