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Social Security administrative law judges suing over quota

The complexity of a Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) case means that the benefit determination process is typically time consuming. In addition to the increase in applications for SSDI benefits, one of the reasons the backlog of SSDI cases exists is the intricacy of the cases. For applications that involve a detailed medical record of treatment for many medical conditions, the sheer number of pages and the potential density of the records, means that assessing the claimants medical condition is not easy.

When an application for SSDI benefits is denied, the complexity increases again. All of the initial information, and if the application was determined to be missing information, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will request that you supply that documentation. A hearing is then held by an administrative law judge (ALJ), who will ask you questions and hear from any other witnesses you supply.

The ALJ will then review your entire case and issue a decision. The ALJ may have hundreds of pages of documentation to review, in addition to the testimony from the hearing. Currently, the SSA demands that ALJs produce two opinions every day.

The judges have filed suit against the SSA claiming that the quota is illegal and denies due process rights for those who have filed appeals. They note that when judges have too many cases to decide, there is subtle pressure to rush decisions and provide less detail in their written opinion.

It is important that judges have the time necessary to draft carefully considered opinions. The process is already slow enough and it is difficult enough for claimants to work through the system without needing to appeal an opinion of an ALJ because the judge had to rush a decision.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Judges' lawsuit: Disability system 'in crisis'," Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press, April 19, 2013

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