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Where You Live Matters, if You're Applying for SSD

What happens to your Social Security Disability (SSD) claim may depend on where you live. For example, Delaware applicants for SSD benefits who appear before an administrative law judge (ALJ) in Dover have a greater chance of having their claims denied than applicants in other states. The administrative law judges there have denied 57 percent of cases since last October, well above the national denial average of 41 percent.

The Dover situation is not new. During the period 2005 to 2008, the judges turned down 44 percent of disability benefit claims they heard, And in fiscal year 2010, they turned down 54 percent of cases, and in FY 2011, they denied 60 percent of claims. In those years, the Dover hearing office ranked number two in denials. And some individual judges have denial rates that exceed 70 percent. Moreover, a 2005 newspaper series on this issue reported that Dover decisions are overturned because of mistakes more frequently than judges in other offices.

In contrast to Dover judges' denials, judges in nearby states have some of the lowest denial rates. For example, an administrative law judge in West Virginia has denied only two of the 1,002 cases heard in FY 2011. And the variation in denial rates is not just between different hearing offices; it can be between different judges in the same office. For example, denial rates in Valparaiso, Indiana, range from 25 percent to 60 percent.

If your appeal was denied, it is important to work with an experienced advocate who knows what to do next. Binder & Binder® is a national firm of SSD advocates dedicated to helping clients navigate the SSD maze.

Source: Social Security Online, "ALJ Disposition Data, FY 2012," Feb. 9, 2012.

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