The judges responsible for deciding Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim appeals are suing Social Security Administration (SSA), arguing that their workload is too high and it leads to poorly decided appeals and less fully developed opinions. The massive number of claims flowing through the system, up 25 percent from a decade ago, has led SSA to place a quota for the number of decision that administrative law judges (ALJ) who work for the agency must decide every year.
The ALJs claim that the quota, 500 to 700 per year, is too high and means they have to decide two cases every day. Given SSDIs funding issues and the increase in the number of applications for the disability benefits, it is troublesome that decisions may be made that are lacking the attention to detail they deserve
Administrative law judges work for the SSA, but within the process are required to be impartial. The review claims when the initial application was denied and the applicant has appeal that denial. In difficult cases, with complex medical documents, the record may exceed 500 pages.
The ALJ has to review the entire record, including the initial application, the denial from SSA and the appeal. As one ALJ notes, if they approve a claim, they may only have to write a three to five page opinion. If they deny an appeal, the opinion typically runs 20 pages, as they have to thoroughly document their reasons for the denial.
ALJs who fail to meet their quota face disciplinary actions and potential removal proceedings. The SSA, like many agencies, is constantly attempting to accomplish more work with fewer people. This is bad for the employees, SSDI applicants and the system.
Source: The Associated Press, "Judges' lawsuit: Disability system 'in crisis'," Stephen Ohlemacher, April 19, 2013