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SSA disability benefits improperly awarded according to Senate Study

Fox News reports that millions of dollars of your money may have been improperly awarded to disability recipients. After an 18-month investigation by the chamber’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations where they randomly analyzed 300 disability cases they found that up to 25% of the cases studied resulted in benefits awarded without “properly addressing insufficient, contradictory and incomplete evidence.”

The committee estimates that mistakes in disability awards can cost taxpayers millions, and each disability award can cost an estimated $300,000 per person over the lifetime of the disability recipient.

The study comes on the heels of claims by Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, a medical doctor and the subcommittee’s top Republican, that Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are bankrupt.

The report noted that over 5.9 million Americans have been added to the disability rolls since 2009, and over 10.6 million workers are currently receiving more than $128.billion in disability benefits.

Coburn focused his efforts on determining whether all judges and examiners understood that the program was a safety net and disability applicants should not be approved unless they actually could not work any job in the national economy. Coburn questioned whether everyone who is currently receiving benefits actually qualifies to receive them.
Seal of the United States Social Security Admi...

The report highlighted one particular judge who was found to have awarded $1.6 billion in lifetime SSDI and SSI benefits in just three years. More troubling is that many of the decisions made by Judge Howard O’Bryan, in Oklahoma City, were given without actually holding SSDI or SSI hearings, but instead, he supposedly reviewed the medical records and made what is termed an on the record review, which allows the claimant to receive SSDI or SSI benefits more quickly without waiting potentially years for their SSA Administrative hearing.

The SSA has vowed to do better. "We share the subcommittee’s concern that a small number of judges have failed our expectations with regard to a balanced application of the law, proper documentation, proper hearings and proper judicial conduct,” agency spokesman Mark Hinkle said.

Clearly, America is in a desperate situation. We continue to grant individuals benefits when there is no more money. It is reported that over the past 45 years, the number of American workers taking federal disability payments has increased four-fold relative to the number actually working. What does this mean? That means currently there are 16.2 people working for each person collecting disability. This is down from a high in previous years of 65 workers working for every disability applicant.

Most Americans agree that we should care for the truly disabled who are completely unable to care for themselves, but the rate at which the SSA continues to award disability benefits to claimants is simply unsustainable. The heavy burden cannot continue to fall on the backs of the declining workforce.

More stringent requirements are needed and efforts need to be made to increase employment opportunities for disabled claimants, many of whom can do some type of work if they had adequate support and retraining. This begs the question if the SSA should begin to award partial disability benefits to some claimants and encourage those who are not 100% disabled to perform some level of work.

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