Senators Question Whether Social Security Disability Program Is Cheating Taxpayers
(CNSNews.com) - Are Social Security disability benefits being fraudulently used as an extension of unemployment benefits? Two Republican senators are requesting an investigation.
In a May 20 letter to the inspector general of the Social Security Administration, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) expressed concern that for some administrative law judges, Social Security disability benefits are being used as an extension of unemployment benefits, rather than as a program to assist the truly disabled.
"Individuals cannot be allowed to exploit SSDI, transforming it into a supplemental source of unemployment income with enormous and crippling costs to taxpayers," the senators wrote.
Hatch and Coburn pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal report, which indicated possible fraud and collusion in the administration of the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) program.
As members of the Senate Finance Committee, the senators said they "have an obligation to review" the operations of the Social Security Administration. They noted that with SSDI's finances in crisis, "it is imperative that disability claims are properly examined to ensure that only those who are lawfully entitled to benefits receive them."
Administrative law judges are supposed to make sure that the process of awarding disability benefits is "fair and impartial," but -- as noted by the Wall Street Journal -- one judge in West Virginia reportedly has approved all of the 729 claims that have come before him this year.
"By any accounting, this raises serious concerns about the propriety and fairness of these judgments," the senators wrote.
The senators said it has come to their attention that at least at least 100 of the 1,500 judges at Social Security are approving 90 percent or more of the cases they review. "These numbers defy conventional logic and demand further scrutiny,” they said.
In their letter to Social Security Administration Inspector-General Patrick O’Carroll, Jr., Hatch and Coburn noted that the approval of a single disability claim results in a lifetime obligation of approximately $300,000 from taxpayers. "This means that the claims approved in just the first six months of 2011 by this one West Virginia (judge) will cost taxpayers over $218 million."
No wonder the disability program is hemorrhaging $124 billion a year and is in permanent fiscal imbalance, they said.
The senators asked O'Carroll for a personal briefing to discuss the "morphing of SSDI into long-term unemployment compensation at taxpayer expense."