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Social Security Disability Benefits system to get critical once-over

The Social Security Administration has been facing so much criticism of the way it awards disability benefits that it recently decided to commission an independent review of its procedures. Hopefully, the review finds some constructive advice to improve the way Social Security Disability benefits are distributed.

The lead researcher for the project said he thinks it will be good to get "fresh eyes" to look at the system and see if ways to make it more efficient can be identified.

One of the biggest problems seems to be with the 1,500 administrative law judges who make determinations central to the process of awarding benefits. The rate at which the judges award benefits varies so widely from judge to judge that there is very little consistency. For example, one judge awarded benefits in 99 percent of his cases, while another awarded them in just 13 percent of his cases. Both of those extremes veer far from the average award rate of 60 percent.

Of course, anyone who has ever applied for benefits knows the process can be a labyrinth of state and federal rules, red tape, local policies and (of course) unhelpful government employees. That, of course, raises the possibility that the complexities of the system are turning away those who really need help.

Have you ever applied for Social Security Disability benefits? If so, what was that system like for you? Do you have any ideas as to how the system can be improved?

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Disability-Benefits System Faces Review," Dec. 15, 2011

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