Probe Sought Into Disability Delays - WSJPosted by on October 07, 2011
Probe Sought Into Disability Delays
By: Damian Paletta
The subcommittee's request came in response to a Sept. 30 Wall Street Journal article saying that managers had instructed administrative law judges and others not to close any cases between Sept. 26 and Sept. 30. The agency wouldn't count cases closed that week toward the goals because of a quirk in the federal calendar.
Hitting the goals is important for managers as they can determine bonuses and promotions. The delay meant that thousands of Americans who had applied for disability assistance would have to wait at least an additional week for their benefits.
"If this intentional work slowdown story is true, this behavior is an abuse of the taxpayer dollars that support the program, a neglect of the Americans that depend on these critical benefits, and raises serious questions about those charged with leading this important program," the Republicans wrote in a letter to Social Security Administration inspector general Patrick O'Carroll.
A Social Security Administration spokesman said the agency was likely to change its policy and no longer have isolated weeks that didn't factor into the fiscal calendar. It also planned to cooperate fully with the investigation, the spokesman said.
The Social Security Disability Insurance system has more than 10 million beneficiaries. Applications are up sharply in recent years because of high unemployment and an aging population. More than 3 million people are projected to apply this year and nearly 750,000 have applied and await a decision.
The letter was signed by 22 Republicans, including House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.).
They asked Mr. O'Carroll to investigate management oversight in seven states mentioned in the article and to check for a pattern of managers instructing "employees to manipulate work loads for personal gains."
Last week, a Social Security Administration spokesman said that "based on available data, it does appear some judges are holding cases...which is counter to our policy. We regret this occurrence."
But several judges said they were ordered to hold cases by managers, and other Social Security Administration employees said they were given similar directives by superiors.