The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Obama and the SSA Fighting Disability Fraud

Team Obama is making moves against disability fraud, which has ballooned under its watch during the recent economic downturn. This weekend, the Social Security Administration will improve oversight over 1,500 administrative law judges who had been awarding or denying benefits as they liked, the Wall Street Journal reports:

The agency is rewriting the job descriptions of its judicial corps, allowing officials more latitude to crack down on judges who are awarding disability benefits outside the norm.

Many judges have operated as if they were independent of the agency and awarded or denied benefits based on their own judgments. A few weeks ago, the SSA notified the judges of the changes.

The job descriptions will no longer include the words “complete individual independence,” and will also clarify that the judges are “subject to the supervision and management” of other agency officials, according to a draft reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

This is of course the right move, and past due. But the very fact that a liberal administration is taking this step is a sign that the Social Security system’s troubles are real. The disability system in particular is stretched past its limits and cuts for beneficiaries could soon be on the table as the trust fund runs out.

Published on December 29, 2013 12:00 pm
  • Bruce

    It would be surprising if they truly enforce tighter standards. These disability recipients surely vote in large numbers for Dems.

  • Kavanna

    Isn’t the whole point to shrink the labor force and the number counted as unemployed, while adding to the rolls of those dependent on government? Dependency, not recovery — that’s the Obama way.

  • Robert Bennett

    I am a retired MD. The definition of “disability” is a major problem in all disability programs. Some of the most physically disabled patients I saw were gainfully employed and proud of it. An orthopedist once told me he could predict which worker’s comp patients would improve by looking at their information sheet. Those who stated their occupation as “disabled” would not get better. Those who gave an occupation were almost always likely to improve. In essence, disability is either a state of mind or, in many cases, deliberate fraud. It can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Those who are not deliberately fraudulent could, theoretically, be reached by psychotherapy or occupational rehabilitation.