It is no secret among Social Security Disability attorneys that cases are getting tougher to win. Today an article in the Wall Street Journal confirmed this. The article, “Government Pulls in Reins on Disability Judges,” discusses how the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) is clamping down on judges by rewriting their job descriptions. The job descriptions will no longer indicate that they have “complete individual independence,” and will also indicate that they are subject to the “supervision and management” of other agency officials. The reasons for the changes, according to the article, is that the SSA is trying to rein in on problems such as fraud in the disability adjudication program, noting that there have been some criminal investigations with a few judges. Another reason for the changes is that they claim they are trying to promote consistency in adjudication
The article notes that the judges were already facing tightening scrutiny due to prior articles in the Wall Street Journal critical of the disability program. In response to the scrutiny, they had already been changing their behavior.
In 2010, for example, judges awarded benefits in 67% of their 585,855 decisions, according to federal data. By 2013, the award rate fell to 56%. The allowance rate right now is probably at a 40-year historic low, Social Security Administration Deputy Commissioner Glenn Sklar said at a congressional hearing in November.
Thus, the judges somehow felt that in response to scrutiny they had to become tougher. All attorneys have felt these changes. I am quoted in the last paragraph of the article. I mention that I now scrutinize the cases I take more carefully. If I do not feel I can win it, I will not take it.