There are about 1,500 Social Security disability law judges in the country who consider appeals and decide which applicants should be granted benefits. Now, the second one in the span of a year has been placed on leave. Both judges have something in common: They have very high approval rates.
The first judge to go on leave had an approval rate of 100 percent. Of the first 729 cases examined in the first half of fiscal 2011, none of them were denied benefits. That judge ultimately retired later that year after his records raised eyebrows.
The second judge, based in another state, has a similar record. Since last October, he has awarded benefits in 338 cases out of 339. And in the fiscal year of 2011, 8 cases were denied out of a total 800. The average approval rate among disability judges nationwide is about 60 percent.
According to the judge’s attorney, the Social Security Administration placed him on leave after receiving complaints about his demeanor during hearings. One complaint was that he asked applicants questions regarding post traumatic stress disorder, even though it apparently wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t clear when or if the judge, who has held his post since 1991, would return.
The man’s relationship with the administration is apparently already strained. He filed a lawsuit against the SSA last year for an unrelated matter. His absence could create problems, too, as he is one of the most productive judges in terms of how many cases he hears. Since there’s already a huge backlog of cases, the move could draw criticism.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Another disability judge placed on leave,” Damian Paletta, May 14, 2012