By James Pavisian, Attorney
In November 2014, the Office of Investigative General (“OIG”) issued a report in which it claimed that Administrative Law Judges improperly approved $2 billion dollars worth of social security disability payments.
At first glance, the OIG report suggests a rampant problem with fraud. What the sensationalist headlines fail to mention is that the OIG report found that the cases the OIG found were approved inappropriately consisted of just 0.4% of all social security disability claims decided in the period OIG approved.
To be clear, it is important for the Social Security Administration to take all reasonable means to prevent fraud. The people that defraud the Social Security Administration make it harder for those with legitimate social security disability claims to get approved. However, that does give the media license to sensationalize the OIG report to suggest fraud within the Social Security Administration is an epidemic. We understand as disability lawyers in Topeka, KS, that the problem with sensationalizing the facts is that it makes those on disability or pursuing disability benefits fearful.
I recall a client called me in early 2014 after 60 Minutes aired a special on the Social Security disability program and asked to withdraw her claim because she was afraid she was unintentionally defrauding the government. This woman was elderly and had a legitimate claim for disability benefits but the mischaracterization of rampant fraud within the process almost cost her the opportunity to meet with a judge and plead her claim.
The most recent OIG investigation revealed that approximately 25,000 of the over 6,600,000 applications approved did not have “a well-supported rationale.” Again, it is important for the government to install commonsense policies to reduce the number of claims approved without appropriate rationale to zero. However, the media, Congress, and the public should not lose cite that over 6,575,000 people provide credible objective medical evidence that they could not work due a physical and/or mental condition. Those 6,575,000 people now have access to the benefits they paid for while working to help them in their time of need.
The OIG report highlighted the 25,000 people that may not have deserved to win. However, we cannot, and should not, ignore the 99.6% of people that received the benefits they were promised they would receive should they become disabled at the time they started working and paying into the Social Security system.