Lankford and Speier Release Bipartisan Social Security Disability Recommendations

Published: Apr 8, 2014

WASHINGTON – House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) today released bipartisan recommendations to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits process in a letter to Social Security Administration Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin based on the Committee’s ongoing investigation into abuses of the program.

Chairman Lankford: “The Subcommittee’s work has uncovered significant management and implementation problems with federal disability programs that deserve to be addressed in a bipartisan fashion.  Because the program will be insolvent in two years, the Social Security Administration needs to take immediate action with authority it already has to address shortcomings with its policies and management. We are committed to continuing to work together to ensure that the programs protect the truly disabled and to holding the agency accountable for its stewardship and management of these taxpayer-funded programs.”

Ranking Member Speier: “Taxpayers are disgusted by reports of lawyers and judges gaming the disability system.  The fraud we do know of is already into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Those who cheat the system are only hurting those who are truly disabled. What we need to do is make sure the Social Security Administration has the authority it needs to increase accountability and modernize its processes so it’s more efficient. The integrity of the program must be protected so taxpayers’ hard-earned money isn’t squandered.”

In the letter to Social Security Administration Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin, Reps. Lankford and Speier write:

“One of the primary problems identified by the Committee is the agency’s motivation, authority, and oversight structure to address these concerns while a large number of SSA Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) appear to have rubber-stamped individuals onto disability programs over the last decade.”

“Both the Social Security Board of Trustees and the Congressional Budget Office estimate that without reform, the SSDI trust fund will be depleted within the next two years,” the letter continues.  “If this occurs, there will be large across-the-board cuts for all beneficiaries.  Because we are committed to ensuring that the federal disability programs serve the truly disabled, we write to urge you to quickly adopt common-sense reforms that will likely reduce a significant amount of misspending within these programs.”

The lawmakers continue in the letter: “Necessary program reform must close loopholes that allow some attorneys and other representatives to submit biased and incomplete evidence in an attempt to game the disability determination system.”

Among the recommendations to SSA from Reps. Lankford and Speier:

  • SSA needs to conduct timely continuing disability reviews (CDRs) and revise the Medical Improvement Standard.
  • SSA’s risk-based approach for conducting CDRs should take into account individuals awarded benefits by red flag administrative law judges (ALJs).
  • SSA should require claimants and their representatives to submit all evidence.
  • SSA should review each applicant’s social media accounts prior to awarding benefits.  SSA should require that all CDRs incorporate a review of beneficiaries’ social media accounts.
  • SSA needs to modernize its medical-vocational guidelines.
  • SSA should expand the Cooperative Disability Investigations program.

The SSDI program recommendations were sent in advance of the hearing titled, “Examining Ways the Social Security Administration Can Improve the Disability Review Process” to be held tomorrow.

You can read the letter to Social Security Administration Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin here.