According to new information on the number of approved Social Security Disability Income appeals cases, the likelihood of having a disability benefits appeals case approved may depend on the discretion of the judge that decides the case. There is a growing disparity in approval rates among the Social Security Administration's 1,400 administrative law judges. According to federal data, some judges are inclined to approve most of the cases that come before them and others are inclined to deny most cases.
Access to data on judges that decide disability benefits appeals cases is easier than before as the agency now posts the statistics of the judges' decisions on its website. A result of the greater transparency is the focus on the difference in judges' approval rates. Congress and the Social Security Administration have started to look into the disparity of the decisions; however, both entities value the independence that judges possess. Though neither entity can direct the decisions of the judges, both entities can ensure judges are following the policies of the agency.
There are judges that represent high approval and high disapproval rates. In previous posts we have spoken about the judge from West Virginia that exemplifies a high approval rate. Since October 2004, the judge has denied only 1 percent of the disability appeals cases that have come before him. In contrast, a judge in Delaware has denied 82 percent of the claims that have come before her during the first eight months of the year. The average approval rating is 60 percent.
Disparities in the Social Security Disability program hurt those who can properly receive benefits through wrongful denials or improper approval of benefits.
Source: USA Today, "Data show disability benefits can depend on judge," Mike Chalmers, 7/1/11