“The majority of initial applications for Social Security Disability benefits are denied.”
That high rejection rate is underscored by one proven Pennsylvania legal source addressing the SSD process. It highlights a disability outcome that is overwhelmingly common for legions of applicants spanning the state and the rest of the country.
Yet it also notes this key fact: Notwithstanding that most disability claimants will face frustration and defeat in their initial attempt to secure benefits, perseverance and close help from an experienced legal team ultimately yields success in many instances.
And that source additionally spotlights the key role played by one principal participant in the process, whose duties and output have recently been closely scrutinized by government examiners.
The administrative law judge: SSD hearing overseer
SSD applicants learn much about a so-called ALJ if their initially denied disability claims progress (as they should) to a subsequent hearing phase. An ALJ’s presence and input centrally come into play when a denied claimant files an appeal and secures his or her right to a legal appeal.
A recent article authored by the Government Accountability Office – a nonpartisan entity that audits federal agencies and activities – takes a close look at ALJs and the work they do. GAO scrutiny proceeds from a study conducted by the watchdog group of ALJ duties and occupational pressures.
The bottom-line finding: Administrative law judges are overworked and having a hard time meeting expectations imposed upon them by the Social Security Administration.
In fact, a reported 87% of surveyed ALJs state that they simply have too much to contend with. The SSA expects them to issue between 500 and 700 decisions each year. That output range has not been reexamined since it was imposed back in 2007, despite complaints that the size and complexity of case files have materially ballooned in recent years.
That workload reality presents both challenges and opportunities for a claimant.
On the one hand, high productivity expectations on an ALJ can conceivably impact work quality in a given case.
On the other hand, though, an applicant’s case and arguments can be greatly enhanced by an experienced disability attorney’s complete and persuasive case presentation, which can serve to optimally guide and influence an appreciative ALJ.
GAO recommendations to the SSA regarding ALJs
The GAO has passed along these two key suggestions concerning administrative law judges:
- SSA periodic review of productivity expectations
- Definitive determination of whether expectations are reasonable
The appeal hearing process marks a critical stage for many SSD applicants. A proven and results-oriented disability attorney can ensure that their legal rights and best interests are fully promoted.