A recent article in the LA Times by Michael Hiltzik offered a strong defense of SSDI after a misleading attack on the program was published in the Wall Street Journal. The author of the Journal piece, Mark J. Warshawsky, criticized the high percentage of awards granted by Social Security Judges, and urged Congress to reform the entire system. Among Warshawsky’s claims was that Judges on average were awarding “70% of the claims before them.”
Hiltzik took a closer look at the numbers cited by Warshawsky, and came to very different conclusions. For instance, the 70% approval rating cited in Warshawsky’s piece came from numbers compiled from 2008. When Hiltzik looked at the most recent data, the approval rating was actually much lower, with Judges approving only 56% of cases in 2013. Furthermore, while Warshawsky criticized Judges with very high approval ratings, Hiltzik cited to an Inspector General’s report that detailed Judges with extremely low approval ratings. Judges in the state of Alaska, for example, approve only 16% of cases before them – the lowest in the nation. This begs the question of why the system is, in so many ways, unfair to deserving claimants who apply for benefits?
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Hiltzik’s piece illustrates that the coordinated and ongoing effort to weaken the Social Security Disability program is so often based on misleading, inaccurate, or cherry-picked data. He points out that wait times are long, benefits are too low, and they are increasingly hard to get. Reform of the system should be welcomed by all sides, but only if it makes the process more efficient and fair.
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