West Virginia Judge Retires, Investigation Brings Changes

Newspaper articles and posts have discussed Judge Daugherty, the West Virginian administrative law judge (“ALJ”) that the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) has been investigating. Judge Daugherty came to the media’s attention when an investigative journalist discovered that he had denied just four disability benefits cases out of 1,300, an approval rate of 99.7 percent. The typical approval rate is 60% across the country.

Judge Daugherty retired last week. He had been on administrative leave since May following the Wall Street Journal article that revealed his almost 100 percent approval rate. Judge Daugherty has denied any wrongdoing, but said that he found the disability benefits system broken because lawyers knew exactly what they had to present to win their cases. Others do not fault Judge Daugherty, but the system, which they say encourages speedy approvals to move through the backlog of cases and to appease higher level management and SSA officials. Assistance applying for disability benefits is available from a Tulsa Social Security Disability lawyer.

The investigation into Judge Daugherty and other anomalies across the country have sparked changes to give ALJs and SSA staff more chances to focus on quality rather than quantity. A new policy prohibits ALJs from handling more than 1,200 cases a year. Another policy makes it difficult for judges to pick their own cases. Instead, managers will have more of a role in deciding who decides what cases.


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