Your chance of winning disability benefits at a hearing may depend on the judge you get the same way your chances of getting a traffic ticket rather than a warning may change based on the police officer who pulls you over.
The job of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is to apply the Social Security Administration (SSA) policies as fairly and objectively as possible in your case. Judges, though, like police officers and everyone else, are ultimately human, each with their unique traits, and so results may vary based on how a judge reacts to your case.
Social Security disability lawyers tend to be familiar with the judges. If you are seeking a hearing in front of an ALJ for Social Security benefits, an attorney can be of help, both while preparing your argument and providing helpful information about the judge you will be facing.
At the Disability Advantage Group, our Social Security disability attorneys can help you prepare for your administrative law judge hearing. No matter the judge you were assigned, we make sure the case you present is a strong one. Call our office today at 865-566-0800.
Chances of Getting Approval for Social Security Disability at an Administrative Law Judge Hearing
Though approval rates vary wildly from judge to judge, overall, ALJ hearings offer the highest approval rates of any stage in the Social Security disability application or appeal process.
The Office of Economic Analysis and Comparative Studies reviewed disability claims covering the years 1997 through 2004, measuring the percentage of claims approved and denied at each stage of the process. Significantly more claims were approved at hearings.
At the hearing level, 78.4 percent of claims received an approval which compared to a meager 45 percent of initial applications that were approved and a paltry 14.5 of first-time (or “request for reconsideration”) appeals that had favorable outcomes.
How Much Results Vary Based on the Judge
Every quarter, the SSA releases a detailed chart showing how many disability claim hearings resulted in approvals and how many resulted in denials. The chart breaks this data down by city and then breaks it down further by showing the number of appeals and denials for each specific judge in each town.
The most recent chart released covers the period from September 30, 2017 through January 26, 2018. This data shows that overall, ALJs issued many more approvals than denials, which is consistent with the Office of Economic Analysis and Comparative Studies from the late ’90s and early 2000s.
But the data also reveals the discrepancies, sometimes substantial, in approval rates from judge to judge. Take the hearing office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for example. In this case, the chance of winning disability benefits at a hearing depend on the judge you get by a significant amount. One judge at that office heard 144 cases during the reporting period, approving 124 and denying only 20.
Another judge in the same office heard 150 cases, approving 56 and denying 94. Despite hearing nearly the same number of cases, the second judge denied almost five times as many applicants than the first judge.
Ideally, if you are applying in Fort Lauderdale and it comes down to those two judges, you will get assigned to the first one but you have no control over that, and unfortunately, neither does your lawyer. What your attorney can do, though, is know what to expect based on the judge assigned and prepare a thorough, compelling case accordingly.
Choice of Disability Benefits Hearing Judge
The SSA has the sole decision power over who hears your case, and it is mostly the luck of the draw. But even judges with low approval rates do not deny everyone. With a compelling claim, you can win over even the harshest judge.
Call 865-566-0800 to Schedule a Free Social Security Disability Case Evaluation
At the Disability Advantage Group, our attorneys want to help you win your disability hearing, no matter who the judge is. We have fought and won many such cases for our clients. We want to do everything possible to get you the benefits you deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation right away, call 865-566-0800.