Earlier in the year, the Social Security Administration in Baltimore decided to implement changes in the federal disability benefits program to reduce the straining backlog of applications. The Social Security Administration implemented new medical examination policies, which Social Security Administration spokesman Mark Hinkle contends, “decisions are timelier… but this does not mean we are sacrificing quality for speed.” However, some doctors have criticized some of the new policies.
New policies resulted in a vast increase in the number of people receiving benefits. Doctors have been working harder and faster to meet the Social Security Administrations new standards. The new policy resulted in a pay cut for doctors unless they were able to work faster to get through more cases. Additionally doctors were required to stray farther from their areas of expertise. As a result of the policy change, 45 of the 140 doctors working in the Baltimore offices either quit or were fired.
After implementation of the new procedures in Baltimore, eye doctors were assigned back-pain cases, dermatologists reviewed strokes, and gastroenterologists reviewed cases of deafness. Although doctors receive extensive training in a broad range of cases, some of doctors have not examined certain medical issues in years. As a result, Dr. Novin notes that some people who shouldn’t be getting benefits are getting it, and some people who should be getting it aren’t getting it. Dr. Novan, the former chief of surgery at Baltimore’s Harbor Hospital contends that he was fired because he was pressured by a supervisor to change his medical opinion and award benefits when he did not believe the person was prevented from working.
The Social Security Administration previously has tried to improve the medical screening process; however, little success has resulted. The Social Security Disability program certainly has not been an easy program to fix. The agency is under extreme political pressure to reduce the backlog of cases, but at the same time, the changes in medical procedures is creating problems of its own. Whatever, the final consensus is in Baltimore will surely affect the program in the rest of the country. Many consider the Baltimore the flagship office of the Social Security Disability program.
Damian Paletta, Doctor Revolt Shakes Disability Program, https://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204621904577016221945984492.html (accessed11/22/2011)