Great moments in disability determination

“Hundreds of Puerto Rico’s residents qualified for federal disability benefits in recent years because they lacked fluency in English, according to government auditors. The Social Security Administration’s inspector general questioned the policy this month in light of the fact that Spanish is the predominant language in the U.S. territory.” [Josh Hicks, Washington Post]


  • SSDI is perhaps the best evidence that today’s liberals will never agree to reform any welfare program for any reason, other than to make it more generous and less accountable. Here we have a program that is rapidly running short of funds and is obviously being abused on a large scale both by claimants and an administrative system in which judges routinely rubber-stamp disability claims, and the left’s proposals for reform are: nothing. Zero.

    • I thought the “I” was for “insurance”. I paid the maximum amount for several years. If I got hurt is it tough luck for me? Is Social Security for those over 65 welfare?

      Perhaps you meant an abuse of an insurance program and not welfare.

      The ALJs are granting more awards because the system has screwed those who are truly disabled making them wait years to get in from of an ALJ. As usual, we are rarely in the center. They shouldn’t be making up for the past by overdoing it in the present.

      Easy enough to claim without backing it up. It’s a poor argument when you insist that others backup your claims.

  • Numbers please. On what basis do you claim that the program is being abised on a large scale or that judges routinely rubber stamp disability claims? Given that there are 10s of millions of people on disability, large scale abuse would be, what 20% or 2,000,000?

    Do you think that disability claims against the government have more fraud than in the private sector?

    Likely the most supportive base for disability benefits are the private long-term disability insurance firms. Most of those firms have to pay less in benefits if their clients qualify for social security disability.

  • Allan,

    Numbers are hard to come by when the system protects itself. It is difficult to say “there is fraud in X% of cases” when the SSA doesn’t do much to investigate fraud to begin with.


    But a review of cases from 1980 through 1983 found 40 percent of those receiving disability benefits were not disabled, suggesting a tremendous level of bad payments.

    Disability judges who have high approval rates send up red flags because by the time a case gets to an administrative law judge, it has already been denied by at least one previous review, and often by a second review, the two lawmakers said. That would suggest the approval rate for those cases should be low.


    A 2014 GAO report ( says that the GAO found a lack of fraud detection at the SSA, a lack of training in fraud detection, a lack of incentives to report fraud (and in fact a disincentive for reporting fraud) and management practices that discourage fraud detections and reporting. Even you must admit that it appears the SSA isn’t as attentive to fraud as it could be.

    Is there a difference in fraud in the private sector vs the SSA? Probably. The reason being in that while the private sector will work on addressing things that affect the bottom line, the government has no such incentive. In a system where the “cure” for fraud is to appear before Congress asking (demanding?) more money, due to not prosecuting fraud, not investigating fraud and not being able to fire incompetent employees, the private sector has no such restraints on employees and will aggressively seek those who defraud a company.

    Finally, your comment on the level of fraud demonstrates the idea that size excuses waste. Yeah, there may be 2,000,000 people on disability out of 10’s of millions, but the money they receive is gigantic and can be spent better elsewhere. It is always a mistake to look at the spending of large amounts of dollars as a percentage of an even larger amount of dollars.

    When people talk billions and billions in waste, that is real money coming out of taxpayer profits.

    • Public records hidden by protection audited by the GAO. How are they hiding these public numbers?

  • Allan I’d start you off here, with NPR’s series on social security disability from a few years ago.

    It does a good job of outlining how the huge rise in claims comes from unverifiable conditions which, not too long ago, rarely served as the basis for federal disability payments. On the other hand, I suppose lack of fluency in English is verifiable, though it is neither disabling nor permanent.

    Other media outlets, including the WSJ, have run stories about ALJs who grant disability status in upwards of 95% of cases they hear. Easy enough to find if you want to.