A union representing the administrative law judges who decide disability benefit cases has sued the Social Security Administration over the case quotas the judges are required to meet. The lawsuit alleges that the quotas, which require each judge to decide between 500 and 700 cases per year, violate the independence of the judges as well as the due process rights of applicants.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims that because of the quotas, judges end up approving many applications for Social Security Disability benefits that would otherwise be denied. For that reason, the lawsuit claims that the quotas put added pressure on SSDI funds, which are set to run out in 2016.
In a recent statement, the president of the union, the Association of Administrative Law Judges, said that it is easier to “pay the case” when goals are set too high, because an approval only requires “a decision that might be three pages long” while a denial requires a much longer decision that takes “a lot more time and effort.”
However, the SSA has denied the claims and has said that the quotas are nothing more than productivity goals. The former commissioner of the SSA recently said in an interview that the union simply doesn’t want to “take accountability” for its members, and allegedly has been trying to “sell this story” for a long time but “no one’s buying it.”
Disability cases go before administrative judges after they have been rejected by local Social Security offices. Because local offices deny a majority of the claims, many cases end up being appealed to administrative law judges. The disability appeals system is currently very backed up and appeals take an average of 373 days to process, according to the SSA.
Source: Associated Press, “Judges Sue Social Security Over Case ‘Quotas’,” Stephen Ohlemacher, April 19, 2013