Apply for Social Security Disability Insurance to this judge: He won't turn you down

Social Security Disability Insurance is projected to become the first major entitlement to go bankrupt — but one judge who helps to administer the program doesn’t seem to mind spending SSDI out of house and home. Administrative law judge David B. Daugherty awards disability benefits in nearly every case he processes, The Wall Street Journal reports today.

In 2005, Daugherty’s disability benefits approval rate stood at 90 percent — but it has only gone up from there. From 2006 to 2008, he approved benefits about 95 percent of the time. Then, last year, he upped the ante to 99.7 percent — and is on track to increase that what little bit he can in 2011.

But Daugherty doesn’t merely approve benefits. He also scoffs at “stingier” SSDI judges.

“Some of these judges act like it’s their own damn money we’re giving away,” Mr. Daugherty told a fellow Huntington judge, Algernon Tinsley, who worked in the same office until last year, Mr. Tinsley recalled.

Amazingly, Daugherty manages to maintain these high approval ratings even though he only receives the cases after applicants have been twice denied by state officials.

American applicants for disability benefits must first seek approval from state officials, who play a lead role in an initial review. Applicants twice denied can then appeal to one of the Social Security Administration’s administrative law judges.

You’d think those previous denials would mean at least a few of the applications Daugherty approves aren’t actually up to snuff.

According to The WSJ, Social Security Administration officials acknowledge the responsibility they bear to taxpayers, but say their “hands are tied on some of the more extreme cases.”

Unfortunately, Daugherty isn’t the only approval-happy judge. In the first half of this year, some 27 judges awarded benefits to 95 percent of applicants — and another 100 awarded benefits in 90 percent of cases.

The Wall Street Journal has requested the Social Security Administration inspector general launch an investigation into Daugherty’s approval rating. That is as it should be. Daugherty no doubt is a likable guy (the article says he’s very well-respected in his community) and I’m sure he thinks he’s just doing his job well (his office rewards the prodigious output he’s only able to achieve by unthinking approval), but now’s not the time to treat entitlements — or any penny of taxpayer money — with anything but the utmost seriousness.