Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Disability judge's generosity leads to probe, and a story with a data-packed interactive table

The actions of a disability-claim judge who served West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio has led to a federal investigation of the Huntington, W.Va., Social Security Administration office and a congressional review of how the agency grants disability claims. It has also prompted a story in The Wall Street Journal, along with a nice interactive table where all judges' performance can be examined.

Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty approved payments in all 729 of his decisions in the first six months of the 2011 fiscal year, Damian Paletta of the Journal reports. (Herald-Dispatch photo) "The inspector general reportedly is looking into the matter to ensure that the review process is working as it should — from the Social Security commissioner on down. The American people should expect nothing less," U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, a Democrat whose district includes Huntington, told Paletta. (Read more)

On average, judges award payments in about 60 percent of cases and spend about an hour on each case, Patella reports. Daugherty tended to favor one particular lawyer and scheduled hearings 15 minutes apart for as many as 20 of this lawyer's clients. (Read more) Amid investigation surrounding his awards, Daugherty retired on July 13, Carrie Cline of WSAZ-TV in Huntington reports.

Social Security disabillity cases appear to be more prevalent in rural areas where men without a high-school diploma are injured and unable, or less able, to perform the sort of manual labor that once sustained them. In Central Appalachia, disabilility lawyers advertise heavily.

To view the Journal's interactive list of all Social Security disability judges and data on their cases and awards, click here. The list can be arranged by state, city, judge or other parameter by clicking on the head of the appropriate column.

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