Reform still needed in federal disability program

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Social Security Administration’s disability program has grown by 45 percent over the past decade, and now provides benefits to 11 million disabled workers, spouses and children.

But the program is running out of money, and that means even more scrutiny for the judges who decide who gets benefits and who does not.

This week four Social Security administrative law judges appeared before the House Oversight Committee to explain why they approved more than 90 percent of the cases they heard between 2005 and 2013.

Keep in mind that most of these claims have been rejected not once, but twice, by local SSA field offices and state agencies.

Last year, a Senate report and hearings highlighted similar concerns about a Huntington judge and Kentucky attorney Eric C. Conn. That investigation showed that former Judge David Daugherty handled a massive number of cases in a streamlined fashion, approving 99 percent of his cases between 2009 and 2011 and awarding $2.5 billion in benefits. Meanwhile, Conn received more than $4 million from Social Security for his representation in cases before Daugherty.

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