ALJs & SSDI Benefits Decisions

Recently, there have been a number of news stories concerning approval rates by administrative law judges (ALJs) in Social Security matters. ALJs review claims of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income applicants whose initial claims for benefits were denied. If the judge decides that the initial claim was unfairly denied, the judge will grant benefits and also determine the amount of Social Security benefits awarded to the applicant.

ALJs have to go through a rigorous screening process before they are allowed to handle these matters. One of the requirements includes having practiced in the specific field for several years, so ALJs are very familiar with the challenges that applicants face throughout the SSD process. Each request for benefits will receive a careful analysis of the facts, and the ALJ will issue a decision that he or she believes is correct for the situation being reviewed.

Just as no two SSD applications are alike, two different ALJs could reach two totally different conclusions on the same set of facts. Some judges may give more weight to specific factors, like the specific injury or illness, while others may be more focused on other characteristics. Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue has stated that Congress intended ALJs to use independent discretion when deciding claims, and that just "a handful" of ALJs have approval rates higher or lower than the national average of 30 percent.

SSD benefits remain extremely difficult to obtain. Many people go through the entire process without having any success. Applicants may not know the sort of information that will help them prove that they are disabled, which can make an already lengthy process even more time-consuming.

If you would like to know more about Social Security benefits or how an attorney can help you with your claim, contact a knowledgeable lawyer with experience in Social Security benefits claims.