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I heard the same story on NPR yesterday while driving around for errands.

A story like this yields many insights about unintended consequences and basic management. One key statistic from the story I may be mis-remembering slightly was that something like two thirds of disability claims are REJECTED in the "first round" but now nearly 90 percent of appeals are APPROVED. That has two related, perverse effects:

1) it encourages more people to appeal the first layer of decision making
2) it involves more expensive resources for the government and the claimant in the appeals process

If you assume that X percent of claimants really SHOULD get benefits, the management of the process should be structured in a way that ensures you come as close to X percent approval on the right claimants in the first round as possible, minimizing the total number of people involved in the transfer. That produces confidence in the system which reduces the temptation of players to game the system by over-running that first tier of defense.

In military terms, it's the equivalent of making a show of a defense around the castle which only encourages the huns to "suit up" and completely overwhelm the castle guards once they compromise the 2-foot deep moat.

What's the real problem here?

Poorly trained 1st tier government staff that "over-rejected" too many legitimate claims because they lacked the expertise to separate the legit from the bogus?

Under-staffed 2nd tier government staff that lacked the resources to raise adequate defenses of legitmate rejections and just caving when brought to court?

Crooked, opportunistic lawyers who discovered a way to extract a profitable cut from what should have remained a relatively simple transfer payment from legitimate government program to legitimate beneficiary when properly managed?

A growing problem with pension and disability coverage provided by employers of workers with "hard skills" that use strategic bankruptcy to walk away from pension and disability obligations to miners, steelworkers and other high-toil, high-risk jobs?

Or is it a reflection of a growing divide in the workplace exacerbating a problem with a gulf between "hard skills" and "soft skills"? If you're a roofer, you can either climb the roof with a nail gun and lay the shingles down on a 100 degree afternoon or you cannot. If you lay carpet or tile, you can either spend 8 hours a day on your knees laying flooring or you cannot. If you're a surgeon, you can either stand for six hours straight through an operation with steady hands and an ability to concetrate or you cannot.

If you're employed in "soft skills" like marketing, IT or management, you have MANY more opportunities to use "soft skills" without being proven to be able or unable to do your job and thus you are more employable. (And let's be clear here, the fact you're able to sit in a meeting tracking "action items" on a "project" or a "program of projects" for the "executive steering committee" doesn't mean SQUAT about your true value to society. It just means your skills fall into a gray area of accountability and productivity.)

Speaking from experience, there are hundreds of thousands of people employed in "IT" or "engineering" as it is currently labeled who have few skills whatsoever for actual networking, software or hardware engineering. They are only employed because management insists on sub-dividing and outsourcing so much work that PILES of documents and meetings are required to "scope" the contracts and "manage the deliverables." This creates an entirely new pile of "soft work" that can be pushed around for weeks/months by people only able to use PowerPoint and Excel who have zero expertise in the core problems.

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