Although you may assume that all Social Security disability appeal judges will treat your case in the same manner, recent data shows that this is not the case. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) website, some judges deny disability claim appeals as much as 30 percent of the time, while other judges deny as few as one percent of all of the cases they hear.
For example in 2011, it was reported that administrative law judge David Dougherty retired from his bench amid an investigation into his appeal decisions. Dougherty had reportedly only denied a little over 100 disability appeal claims since 2004. On the other hand, chief judge Judith Showalter allegedly has a low appeal acceptance rate—granting only about 40 percent of those who appealed benefits over the last five years. On average, about thirty percent of appeal cases are denied by Social Security disability judges.
Is This Discrepancy a Problem?
Almost everyone, from Social Security lawyers to disability advocates to the SSA itself, believes that it is better to let the judges make their own decisions and stay out of the way. However, it is important to remember that some people who have had their valid Social Security disability claims denied have had their entire lives and financial situations changed forever.
Social Security Disability Approval Rate Dropped Between 2006 and 2011
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), it was slightly more difficult to be approved for disability benefits in 2011 than in 2006. In 2006, 2,524,550 people applied for Social Security disability and 35.2% of these applications were approved during the initial process. In 2011, 3,243,079 applied for social security disability and 33.5% were approved during the initial process. That’s a 2% disability benefits approval rate drop over five years.
While the SSA denies that it has changed the application process to make it more difficult to secure disability benefits, the process has changed in several ways as the federal agency attempts to deal with a growing backlog of cases.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Social Security Disability Claim?
A good place to start is by understanding the information that you need to provide to the SSA and by collecting the appropriate evidence of your condition. If you need assistance with these steps, you may wish to speak with a Social Security disability benefits attorney. Contact us today at 877-898-1581 to schedule a meeting and speak with a lawyer.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.