WSJ Points to Troubling Problems in Social Security’s Handling of Disability Claims

Neil Novin, one of the doctors who told the Wall Street Journal that he believes the Social Security Administration is rushing disability decisions.

Efficiency is a good thing. We all want more for less. However, sometimes the pursuit of efficiency comes at too high a cost. This appears to be what is happening in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) treatment of disability cases. According to the Wall Street Journal, a recent shift in procedure at the SSA now has the doctors who review disability claims paid $80 per case rather than the previous rate of $90 per hour. When cases take an average of 60 to 90 minutes to adequately review, this encourages doctors to cut corners in order to make up for the lost income. Rodrigo Toro, a neurologist who quit after the changes, said, “The implication there was that you really didn’t have to be that careful and study the whole thing.”

With 45 of the 140 doctors who review the cases either quitting or being fired in the wake of the policy shift, the problem of doctors assessing claims outside of their specialty has been exacerbated. Eye doctors are reviewing back pain cases and dermatologists are looking at the claims of stroke victims. Many of the doctors interviewed in the article believe that this is causing some claimants to receive benefits that they don’t deserve while other individuals who are entitled to disability are not receiving it.

The backlog of cases has indeed been reduced by the new policy, but we have to ask “at what cost?” It doesn’t help the bottom-line if money is being squandered on faulty claims, and overlooking legitimate claims defeats the purpose of providing disability benefits in the first place. We’re glad the WSJ has brought these issues to light, and hopefully these prods those with the power to make change to step up and do so.

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