The bombshell dropped by The Oregonian newspaper has the network of Social Security disability lawyers abuzz with emails, blog posts and twitter updates. The Oregonian published a searchable database showing approval and denial rates for all the Social Security administrative law judges for the years 2005 to 2008. For those of us concentrating on this area of law, this is a big deal.
These statistics have never been available before. There have been statistics about approval and denial rates by state, but never by by individual judge. So for the first time it is possible to compare a particular judge to his or her peers. Further, the database facilitates a comparison between my personal experience with a judge with that judge's overall statistics. That is simply a gold mine of insights for me.
My first impression, after looking at the statistics for the judges in Maine and New Hampshire was surprise that the spread between judges was not greater. Among judges currently serving in these two states, the lowest denial rate was around 60% and the highest was around 80%. I was surprised that there was not a greater range between the high and the low.
Since then I have had a chance to explore the database. If you search by year rather than by judge, the database provides a list of all the ALJs making decisions that year. You can then sort that list by column. I sorted by the column showing each judge's approval rate. I was stunned to learn that there are ALJ's out there deciding hundreds of claims a year with approval rates as low as 11%.
Take a look at The Oregonian's ALJ database. And please leave a comment below telling me what you learned. Please identify the particular judge by state, not by name.