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Inspector General Finds Billions in Payment Errors by Social Security Judges

November 19, 2014

Washington, DC – In a report released last week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealed that several judges have wrongly awarded billions of dollars in Social Security Disability Insurance benefit payments.  In response to the report, Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) issued the following statement.

“As we know through multiple Ways and Means Subcommittee hearings – and through a previous OIG report linking judge productivity to award rates – taxpayers and beneficiaries lose big when Social Security judges are able to decide cases without being held accountable for poor, incompetent, or hasty work.  According to the report released last week, the 44 judges studied by the OIG wrongly awarded an estimated $2 billion in disability benefit payments, with an additional $273 million in predicted losses to the American worker in the next year alone.

“One reason I introduced H.R. 5260 — the Stop Disability Fraud Act of 2014 — was to hold Social Security judges accountable for rampant poor decision-making.  My bill requires Social Security to review the decisions of these judges for quality.  It also makes statistics about judges available to the public.  Increased transparency and oversight are important first steps to guard the program from judges who cause harm to American taxpayers by refusing to comply with Social Security’s laws and policies.

“The Disability Insurance program will be unable to pay full benefits in 2016.  Social Security can and must do better.  Americans want, need and deserve a consistent and accurate disability appeals process.”

Other report findings include:

  • There were deficiencies or “issues” in quality in over three-fourths of the reviewed disability awards issued by the 44 disability judges, and more than 4 out of every 10 of these awards were not supported by the evidence in the claimant’s record.

  • An estimated 24,900 cases were improperly granted disability benefits by these judges during a 7-year period.

  • The SSA should be placing even greater focus on outlier judges and expediting continuing disability reviews for cases found to be deficient. 

  • The SSA has begun to utilize measures to oversee and monitor disability judges’ work, and the number of the so-called “outlier judges” has gone down.