Americans seeking Social Security disability benefits will often appeal to one of 1,500 judges who help administer the program, where the odds of winning are slightly better than even. This article in the Wall Street Journal* explores the decisions of one particular judge in the system, David B. Daugherty, who maintains a slightly different record: In the fiscal year that ended in September, the administrative law judge, who sits in the impoverished intersection of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, decided 1,284 cases and awarded benefits in all but four. For the first six months of fiscal 2011, Mr. Daugherty approved payments in every one of his 729 decisions, according to the Social Security Administration.
Mr. Daugherty has said every decision he makes “is fully supported by relevant medical reports and physical and/or mental residual functionary capacity assessments from treating or examining doctors or other medical professionals.”
For some, applying for benefits can be an agonizing process that takes more than two years. Benefits are modest—they can run around $1,000 a month—but come with access to government-run health plans Medicare and Medicaid. Analysts estimate the total package costs $300,000 over a beneficiary’s lifetime.
In a brief telephone interview in April, Mr. Daugherty blamed high poverty rates especially in Eastern Kentucky for his large case load and high approval rate.
“People would really be surprised at how little education those people have,” he said. “If they have a fourth-grade education, they couldn’t get a job if their lives depended on it.” Read more…*
*this link to the Wall Street Journal article will be good through 5/26/11.