The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article today on doctors working for the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluating disability claims. Apparently, these doctors are "revolting" because they feel that the Agency is improperly trying to influence their medical claim decisions in order to process the current backlog of disability claims faster. The claims of these whiny doctors is all a bunch of hooey!
The only thing "revolting" about many of these doctors are the poor medical decisions they have been making for years – which in turn are a major contributor to the current backlog of claims. This is nothing new and is not caused by any recent "upheaval".
As an Social Security Disability lawyer who sees these doctors’ decisions reversed on a regular basis by Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s), I can tell you these doctors rarely make well reasoned, medically justified decisions.
More often, they simply "sign off" on claim denials because it is easier than justifying an award of benefits. They simply pass the buck to the Administrative Law Judge, who may not see the claim for another six months or more, and then has to make the hard decision to grant or deny a claim.
To the Social Security Administration’s credit, their recent actions are corrective in nature and intended to relieve strain on the backlog of disability claims. Social Security is simply trying to make sure that doctor’s who work for them get it right the first time, thereby decreasing a claimant’s wait for a correct decision on their disability claim. Score one for SSA Commissioner Astrue!
The real deal is that most of these doctors are unhappy because Social Security is now paying them for "performance" on a per claim basis, as opposed to their prior leisurely $90 per hour pace. These doctors, many of whom have been "retired" from the regular practice of medicine for decades, had a good thing going while it lasted. When asked to produce, the "semi-retired" Social Security doctors are leaving the system – plain and simple.
And as Wall Street Journal economic policy reporter Damian Paletta correctly points out, bad medical decisions often times result in severe economic hardship for claimants. The new initiative to improve the previously broken system should be applauded. Is it perfect? Perhaps not yet. But it was broken long before.