THE federal government may finally be getting a handle on the runaway Social Security Disability Insurance Program.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Social Security Administration is "tightening its grip on 1,500 administrative law judges to ensure that disability benefits are awarded consistently and to reign in fraud in the program."
SSDI payments have risen dramatically in recent years.
A combination of the economic downturn driving more unemployed workers to the program and liberal awarding of benefits by some judges has raised SSDI rolls 20 percent in the last six years to 12 million people, with an annual budget of $135 billion.
At this rate, the disability program will have spent all its reserves by 2016, forcing either an increase in payroll taxes or a cut in benefits.
The Journal reports that the administrative law judges will no longer have "complete individual independence."
Instead, they will be subject to supervision and management from the Social Security Administration.
The union representing the judges says it fears that will open the process to political interference, but that's a straw man. Many of these disability judges need someone looking over their shoulder.
The poster boy for waste, fraud and abuse in SSDI is D.B. Daugherty of Huntington. As a Social Security administrative law judge, Daugherty awarded benefits in virtually every case . . . thousands of them. He worked closely with attorney Eric Conn, who advertised heavily in West Virginia and Kentucky, looking for potential clients.