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Are SSDI ALJs too generous?

Many applicants in the Columbus area, like Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) applicants everywhere, may find their initial submission for SSDI benefits denied. When that occurs, they can appeal the denial. At that point, they then are entitled to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ is an employee of the Social Security Administration (SSA) who decides issued involving SSDI applications.

While the hearing is a legal proceeding, it is less formal than a case in court. Nonetheless, the ALJ is a judge for purposes of your disability determination and has a great deal of authority in rendering a decision. The SSA, however, has recently announced that they are increasing the control they exercise over those ALJs. 

Because the judges had "complete individual independence," the agency was limited in what it could do to judges who were deemed to be "outliers" in granting disability benefits. The new job description will allow more control by supervisors within the agency.

The fact that there have been increased applications for SSDI is in reality a red herring. The denial of initial applications tends to average 60 to 70 percent and according to an SSA official who testified in front of Congress, the rate at which ALJs approve awards of benefits is at a "historic low."

ALJs worry that they will be disciplined should they appear to approve too many awards, and that the SSA will manipulate the outcome of cases. We hope ALJs retain sufficient independence to appropriate decide the cases they hear, and do not deny valid claims merely to meet a quota.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Government Pulls in Reins On Disability Judges," Damian Peletta, December 26, 2013

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Philip J. Fulton Law OfficeRepresenting Victims Of Workplace Injuries And Disability

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