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Social Security Disability and Award Rates by ALJs

ssd claim.jpgCritics of Social Security Disability (SSD) often raise concerns about administrative law judges (ALJs) whom they charge with being too lenient when adjudicating appeals. Our previous blog post discussed how these critics use old statistics to support their claims. Critics have to go back several years to find numbers that make their assertions seem true.

There is no reason to use old numbers - unless one is trying to prove a point not supported by more up-to-date statistics. Statistics through the end of February 2015 are available on the Social Security Administration's website. The numbers detail many aspects of the work performed by ALJs in connection with SSD appeals.

Administrative law judges hear appeals after initial applications and reconsiderations for disability benefits have been denied. Last year, a story in theLA Times noted that only 58 percent of applicants who appeal negative decisions received SSD awards. This does not support the claim that ALJs are one of the reasons for the so-called SSD crisis because of their leniency.

But you don't have to take the media's word for this. The data from the SSA shows the disposition record of each judge from the period September 27, 2014 through February 27, 2015. These numbers track the following information for each judge:

  • Judge's name and district
  • Total dispositions both in his or her home office and across all offices
  • Total number of decisions
  • Awards, both fully favorable and partly favorable
  • Denials

Critics say that providing information about ALJ dispositions may encourage people appealing negative decisions to identify the best judge for the hearing. However, such numbers also show the judges who have lower-than-average or very low approval rates, and critics never talk about these numbers or the disabled workers who may have been unfairly denied benefits.

Using old statistics is shading the truth at best and outright lying at worst. Because Social Security Disability has become such a political football and because the situation changes so quickly, something that may have been true in 2013 is not longer the case today. For example, in 2013, there were reports that ALJs were being asked to rubber stamp appeals in order to reduce the SSD claims backlog. Whether this was true is not really the issue today. However, there have been few if any recent negative stories about rubber stamping - critics are focusing their efforts elsewhere.

If you have had trouble with your SSD claim, reconsideration request or appeal hearing, don't wait to get help. At Binder & Binder®, America's most successful SSD advocates, we help people at all stages of the process obtain the disability benefits they need and are entitled to. Give us a call from anywhere in the United States or territories, tell us your story, and learn if we can help.

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