WASHINGTON, D.C. – New leaders are making changes within the Social Security Administration, but Republican Congressman Jim Lankford (OK-5) said it will take years to fully implement the kinds of reforms the agency needs — especially when it comes to disability benefits.

Rep. James Lankford (OK-5)

“People lose track of the fact that Social Security disability is one of the trust funds that’s sitting out there. Everybody that’s working has a part of their paycheck pulled out to be able to set aside money in case they’re ever disabled permanently,” Lankford said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“People that are getting this money when they’re not truly disabled are literally taking funds from the truly disabled.”

Lankford — who met with the new Social Security leadership this week — serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In June, that committee released a report entitled “Systemic Waste and Abuse at the Social Security Administration.”

It found that, between 2005 and 2013, more than 1.3 million people were placed on a federal disability program at a total cost of nearly $400 billion by administrative law judges who granted appeals more than 75 percent of the time. By the time claims make it to AJLs, they’ve usually already been denied at least twice.

Some of the most prolific AJLs worked in West Virginia. D.B. Daugherty of Huntington, a former AJL, awarded benefits 99 percent of the time, approving $2.5 billion in lifetime benefits for 8,413 people from 2005 until 2011.

Harry Taylor is a current Social Security administrative law judge in Charleston. According to the U.S. House report, he ruled in favor of claimants 94 percent of the time from 2005 to 2011, awarding $2.5 billion in benefits to 8,227 people. In two out of every three cases, Taylor reached his decisions without holding hearings.

Many other complaints have been lodged against Taylor who is still on the bench. The process to dismiss an AJL takes up to three years. Lankford confirmed Taylor is the subject of scrutiny. “There are serious allegations and he’s going to have to defend himself through this process, both for policy decisions and for procedural issues,” he said.

Overall, Lankford said the definition of “disabled” has become subjective. “It should be a very clear cut thing. The definition of when you get Social Security disability is when you’re unable, due to medical reasons, unable to do any job in the economy. That’s a very clear definition — any job in the economy.”

Currently, more than six in 100 Americans receive Social Security disability benefits. As recently as 25 years ago, fewer than three were. Lankford said, at the current pace, the Social Security disability programs will be insolvent within 18 months.

“It’s accelerating towards insolvency because there’s so many people that are getting into the system that, basically, either can’t find a job or don’t want to get a job and so they’re trying to go through the disability system to just get lifetime benefits and try to use it as unemployment,” Lankford said.

“It was never designed to be unemployment, it was designed to be for the truly disabled.”

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Comments

  • Mr.P

    How many people do you see in WV who are probably getting SSDI because they are too obese to work.

  • Independent View

    At 24 posts, all were negative. Not one poster stated that, although the system suffers abuse, it does provide a lifeline to some people. I'm not defending fraud, however, there are legitimate disability claims. And, most claims involve 2+ years of appeals, without income, except for a few that may receive financial support from family or friends. Many claimants are forced into bankruptcy waiting on adjudication of their case. To suggest that an honest and hard working man or women earning a living wage for their family is so lazy that they will accept about 1/3 of their wages as their total monthly income is an insult to the honest claimants.
    So, do we throw the baby out with the wash water because it suffers from abuse?
    How about welfare fraud? Food stamp program fraud? Medicare fraud? Medicaid fraud? Veterans benefits fraud? Social Security fraud? Child welfare payment fraud? Cell phone program fraud? Some people lie awake at night, thinking of ways to scam systems, whether it be SS or credit cards or whatever. There will always be scam artists; both blue collar and white collar.

    • GregG

      Loved your post Independent View. Funny how you never hear about the people that SHOULD be drawing SSDI but due to pride they won't apply. And then there is the ones that get denied and refuse to play the SSDI game of appealing. There is no question there is fraud in SSDI. But its not just the people applying. The judges and doctors hands are not clean either. But the bottom line is, in my opinion, a disability is not always a "visual" condition that can be seen by others.

    • ViennaGuy

      - To suggest that an honest and hard working man or women earning a living wage for their family is so lazy that they will accept about 1/3 of their wages as their total monthly income is an insult to the honest claimants -

      There **are** people who will take a cut in income just to avoid working - they are THAT lazy.

      The real insult upon those who truly need it is by those who scam it, not those who point it out.

      • Independent View

        Vienna Guy
        You mischaracterized what I said. Your closing sentence said: " The real insult upon those who truly need it is by those who scam it, not those who point it out".
        What I said is: "...To suggest that an honest and hard working man or women earning a living wage for their family is so lazy that they will accept about 1/3 of their wages as their total monthly income is an insult to the honest claimants..."
        EMPHASIS ON MY USE OF THE WORD HONEST.
        Further, I am not suggesting nor attempting to insult anyone that is pointing out fraud or scammers.

  • Fred

    I worked at a golf course for 3 seasons. If it weren't for guys 'on disability' we would have had almost no daytime players during the week.

  • fed up

    Working in a medical office, patients "learn" what to say, how to act, and which doctors to go to get their disability. It seems that disability is the "golden ticket" that will get people checks and insurance and they will never have to work at a real job again. But of course, they can get paid under the table, or drag a deer up a mountainside. The worst thing I see is there is no incentive for the patient to get better. And is also sad that obesity and alcoholism is a certain disability along with a "mental disorder" - guaranteed money.

  • A Country Boy Can't Survive

    The program has turned decent people into lying thieves. People who used to care for their families, raise gardens, take pride in jobs well done have become government serfs. That's a tragedy in itself and something that's overlooked. Being a slave to a government check means you can't care for yourself. I laugh every time I hear that song 'A country boy can survive'. Most of the country boys I know who pull down a check are fat and stupid. Couldn't survive a hot day without air conditioning.

  • shocked!

    Who in WV didn't come to these conclusions more than decade ago? BTW the Feds will be funding the SSI shortfall with $$$ from the regular program. Putting regular SS at greater risk for those who actually worked for it. SSI is a big money maker for lawyers. My friend who got out of the military said six months before discharge he met with the 'Disability specialist' to determine what level of disability payments he'd get on discharge. He had his 20 years in, they designated him 40% disabled with Attention Deficit Disorder. He told me every vet he knows is pulling a disability check. Different systems I guess, but the scam and attitude . . . Uncle Sam owes me a living.

    • Debra

      Former military are getting veteran disability. SSI is different than social security disability and the conditions for approval is different.

      • shocked!

        Yes. I said that. My point was that both programs have the same attitude and abuse. The Pentagon, however, is addressing it. SSDI is not.

  • Debra

    Let's clear some things up here. People on SSDI get reviewed medically every 2 to 5 years unless they have a condition that will never improve. Also, people on social security are allowed to work part time. They receive W 2's just like everyone and that info is provided to the social security administration.

    • mtmanstan

      What percentage of those who are allowed to work, actually do? I don't think that statistic will be all that staggering.
      The abuse of this system is bred into most. It is the ONLY means of living that they have been taught. It is most definitely an ethics ( or lack thereof) issue!

    • no one loses SSDI

      Never met a person who stopped getting SSI. I know kids who started getting it for ADD and are still getting it at forty. You can meet him at his flea market business on weekends and putting up hay on his daddy's farm this week.

  • Jephre

    Would it be possible for the ALJs to have a fraud investigation unit, similar to what the workers' comp companies have done? Is there any outside validation done on these claims before benefits are awarded?

  • Watching

    As a true WV-Dem. I can't help but applaud this. For far to long they have been giving disability ( dumb ) checks to individuals because they are to lazy to work, or have ADHD. Hell, all of us had a form of that when we were in school. It's called Spring Fever. When the attorneys started flooding the airways with commercials, everyone wanted a check, and according to the article, 99 to 97 percent of the time they got one. At a cost of billions of dollars that you and I put in to the system. My question is, way do I have to support someone, who for what ever reason, thought that they didn't need an education? Give them food stamps, a medical card, housing, and a cell phone. Simply because their parents, and generations before them found a way to beat the system. The majority of people coming to WV are only coming because they are getting more for their government buck. I guess we can thank the AJL's for that. I can blame then, but we are just as guilty for letting it happen......

  • Roger

    Then require these thousands who are ripping off the system to go through comprehensive medical testing to see if they are faking their disability or not, and if not disabled, them kick them the hell off the program. I know several individuals who collect a check each month, but they work at various jobs and are paid by cash, or their invoices are from their wife or some other family member. Its a disgrace that between the able bodied welfare clients and the disability recipients that these programs are going broke...No wonder!

    • Savage

      Agree.

  • Gary

    There are so many people on disability in ths state that shouldn't be. They get turned down for disability and they get a lawyer and social security rubber stamps them approved with the same information. What a disgrace.

    • I'm honest at least

      In my county kids of certain people are groomed on how to get disability from a young age with the claim of mental issues.

      • Savage

        No, you break the law, get incarcerated, fail a drug test, you loose 100% benefits, forever.

    • Savage

      I agree that there are many on SSI because they are lazy and a good days work would hurt them. Here's the 0problem, the Social Security Administration has ALJ'S making the determination from a person's medical history as to whether they qualify for benefits. My thought is replace the ALJ'S with M.D.s and let the M.D.s make the determination if a person is eligible for benefits. Then for those on benefits the government should follow up on beneficiaries to make sure that the're not playing professional sports on the week end or entertaining client's at the local truck stop through the night. Anyone found receiving benefits under false pretenses should be Federally prosecuted. I'm sure there are legitimate claims being denied leaving people with no other alternative but obtain legal counsel. The system as it is, truly needs overhauled. That being said I wouldn't want my doctor working on my car, or a judge attempting telling me how sick I may be. However if big government is involved it won't get better, look at government involvement at Waco.

      • shocked!

        A high % of the state's prison population pull down SSDI checks. Payments are suspended after 30 days incarceration, but start again 30 days after release.

        • Debra

          So are you suggesting that after they complete their sentence they should not get their disability back? They don't ever get the money that was withheld while they were incarcerated.

          • Rick

            Yes! People on disability that are convicted of crimes should not be able to ever get disability again. If you have the ability to conjure up a scheme to commit a crime you have the ability to work.

  • IRON HORSE

    I know plenty of people who when I found out they were on disability I was shocked! I have no problem with a person being on disability when they truly need to be that's what it is there for they put money into the program so the should get it back when they need it. I think some of these non disabled needs to be rechecked or watched to make sure they truly are disabled.

    • shocked!

      The program is so rampant with abuse it needs a complete, top to bottom, reappraisal. Every recipient needs to be reevaluated. But the special interests, the lawyers, own government and will suck out every penny, even bankrupt regular SS before they ever let this cash cow die.

  • Gem-Digger

    Finally a man with the ba!!$ to say what the hell is wrong in this country. Everyone is waiting on their back disability payments and their check to begin. Then I ask myself, what the hell for? I believe that if you do not work and you get a check, any check, from a government agency, that you have to pass a drug test and that you have to give 20 hours a week to that government. Answering phones in the courthouse, cleaning floors and toilets, picking up trash, mowing the lawns, something in order to receive that benefit. No one should be given anything unless they truly need it. The number of people that are on disability because their back hurts is unbelievable, take an aspirin like I do and go to work!!!!

    • mtmanstan

      You got my vote! Gem-Digger for Gov.

  • lawyerleeches

    What percentage do the lawyers get from this silliness? How does that work? Do they get a percent of that person's check for life? If so that is ridiculous.

    • mntnman

      25% of the back award or $6000, which ever is less. SS has to approve all fees.

  • What happened to WV?

    This may mean we can get WV back to work. It is tough to find people that want to work.