Disabled workers in SC roll the dice when drawing judges to decide their benefits
The North Charleston, SC Office of Hearings Operations hears cases from parts of North Carolina as well.
Sick and injured workers face a brutal game of chance when they apply for federal disability benefits: their odds hinge as much on the judge they are assigned as on the facts of their case.
American workers give 6 percent of their paychecks to the Social Security Administration just in case they lose their jobs to injury or illness. But, in the end, it’s a government judge, not a doctor, who will decide whether a condition is serious enough to warrant benefits.
Allowed wide discretion with little oversight, judges come to wildly different decisions.
It’s a consequential game of roulette, and it can take years for the wheel to stop spinning. Draw one judge and you’re all but guaranteed access to life-saving benefits. Draw another and you may have little chance at all.
Thousands of Americans every year will face a judge who operates in extremes, a Post and Courier analysis shows. Nationwide, some judges approve just 9 percent of the cases that come before them; others, as much as 96 percent.
This raises the risk that thousands of dollars a year are sent to people who don’t deserve benefits, while others who do deserve them are languishing in a backlog of rejections.