The chief Social Security Administration (SSA) judge in Huntington, West Virginia, voluntarily left his post recently as a result of a federal investigation into excessive payments awarded by a judge he supervised.
Judge Charlie Andrus, the city's chief judge since 1997, stepped down after the Wall Street Journal reported that his subordinate, Judge David B. Daugherty, awarded Social Security Disability benefits to all 729 petitioners in the first half of 2011. In fact, only four of Daugherty's 2,104 petitioners were denied benefits in the past 18 months, an approval rate approaching 100 percent. The national average for judges is approximately 60 percent.
The SSA placed Daugherty on indefinite leave in May 2011. Investigators are looking into accusations that he took on cases assigned to other judges, heard unassigned cases and maintained "an arrangement" with a Social Security Disability attorney, according to The West Virginia Record.
In his defense, Daugherty maintained that judges are pressured by the Social Security Administration to clear heavy case backlogs. To speed the process, he used quicker methods not employed by other judges.
The Daugherty investigation and other similar investigations were the center of debate in a recent U.S. House hearing on the role of SSA judges. Representatives discussed both the alleged abuse of the system by SSA judges and the continued backlog of SSD applications.
Social Security Disability - $124 Billion Paid Annually
The Social Security system employs roughly 1,500 administrative law judges who decide whether a person who has been denied Social Security Disability (SSD) at least twice may be awarded disability benefits. One of the nation's largest entitlement programs, the SSD program paid $124 billion in benefits to 10.2 million people in 2010.
However, many people with valid disabilities are still waiting to receive the benefits they are entitled to under the law. If your SSD application has been denied, an experienced SSD lawyer can help you go through the often arduous Social Security Disability appeals process.