Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Investigating the wide disparity in allowance rates from Social Security Disability hearings

One of the most frustrating aspects of the Social Security disability process, particularly at the hearing level, is the inconsistency of administrative law judge decisions. The average allowance rate for 2010 was 67% at the hearing level. However, the hearing level approval rate for administrative law judges ranged from 8.6% to 99.7%. The difference between the judge with the lowest percentage of approvals and that of the judge with the highest percentage of approvals is enormous. The Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, also called OIG, has looked into the situation. It is not all that clear what the OIG plans to do or can do about the situation. One of the reasons there is an appeals Council is to review decisions by ALJ's to make sure the decisions follow Social Security guidelines. One problem I see with this is with the new rules that do not allow a claimant to file appeal to the appeal council and a new application at the same time it is forcing many claimants to make a choice whether or not to appeal their case and many are not appealing the hearing decision in hopes of getting a quicker decision with the new application. It will be interesting to see what steps are taken to correct this problem without interfering with an ALJ's decisional independence. For those of you at the hearing stage, unfortunately, due to new rules from Social Security you will not know which ALJ you will be in front of until the day of the hearing. However, after you have your hearing it may be a good idea to try and find out your particular ALJ's approval rating so that in case you were denied it can help you decide whether or not to appeal or file a new application.