WASHINGTON -- A Social Security administrative law judge who awarded disability benefits at a higher rate than virtually all his peers retired last week amid multiple investigations into his conduct, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing an agency spokesman.
David B. Daugherty, 75, worked in the Social Security Administration's Huntington, W.Va., appeals office and was placed on administrative leave in May following a Wall Street Journal article that detailed his decisions.
He had awarded disability benefits in all of the 729 cases he decided in the first six months of fiscal 2011. In fiscal 2010, he denied benefits in just four of the nearly 1,300 cases he decided.
Most disability judges award benefits roughly 60 percent of the time, and local Social Security officials had complained for years that Daugherty was too generous in the way he made decisions. Several of these officials, including former judges, said the agency encouraged the high volume of approvals because it helped to move a backlog of cases that was frustrating top brass.
In a recent interview, Daugherty denied any wrongdoing but said the Social Security disability system was broken because lawyers knew what information they had to present to judges to automatically win their cases. He did not return a message seeking comment Monday.
Agency data show there are dozens of judges who award benefits more than 85 percent of the time, something the agency said last week costs taxpayers close to $1 billion each year. At the other end of the scale, some judges award benefits in fewer than 50 percent of the cases they decide, a discrepancy that has led some applicants to complain that the process is unfair.
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