The rules governing the judges are being rewritten so that they will no longer have "complete individual independence," and will clarify that they are "subject to the supervision and management" of other officials in the agency, Paletta reports. "In 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported a widespread disparity in the probability that certain judges would award benefits" to people who appealed initial denials, with many awarding benefits to 90 percent of claimants and others denying more than 80 percent of their cases. The tried to crack down on such "outliers," but said the "judicial independence" rule kept it from intervening, "even if a judge paid benefits in more than 95 percent of the cases."
Paletta notes, "The Social Security Disability Insurance program, funded by payroll taxes, pays monthly benefits—often until someone receives retirement benefits in their 60s—for people who can no longer work because of physical or mental health problems. During the recent economic downturn, the program grew quickly and now has close to 11 million beneficiaries. It has grown so fast, in fact, that it is projected to exhaust the reserves in its trust fund by 2016, which could force all beneficiaries to see an immediate cut in their payments."