Judges defend high rate of approval of disability claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four of the judges who've been accused by congressional investigators of rubber-stamping claims for Social Security disability benefits are defending their work.

Investigators found that nearly 200 administrative judges have been routinely approving the vast majority of the claims that come before them --- resulting in billions of dollars in lifetime payments from the Social Security program.

By the time the disability cases even reach these administrative law judges, the claims have already been rejected at least once -- and often twice -- by workers in state offices.

But the judges who have ended up reversing most of those decisions say they are following the law.

Judge Gerald Krafsur of Tennessee approved 99 percent of the cases he decided during the past nine years. According to the Republican staff of the House Oversight Committee, lifetime benefits average about $300,000 -- so his cases will lead to nearly $1.8 billion in benefits.

But as he appeared before lawmakers in Washington today, Krafsur said his decisions were correct. He said of the applicants, "I've seen their ailments, I've seen their pain, right in front of me."

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa asked another of the judges, "Are the people below you always wrong?"

The judge, Charles Bridges of Pennsylvania, responded that those who had rejected the disability claims are "not legally trained."

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APPHOTO DCCD101: From left: Harry C. Taylor II, Administrative Law Judge, Charleston, W.Va., Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Social Security Administration; Charles Bridges, Administrative Law Judge, Harrisburg, Pa., Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Social Security Administration; Gerald I. Krafsur, Administrative Law Judge, Kingsport, Tenn., Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Social Security Administration; James A. Burke, Administrative Law Judge, Albuquerque, N.M., Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Social Security Administration; are sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, prior to testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform hearing regarding social security and disability benefits. Four Social Security judges are facing accusations they rubber-stamped claims for disability benefits, approving billions of dollars in payments from the cash-strapped program. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (10 Jun 2014)

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