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Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently completed an audit to determine “what factors may account for any variance in decisional allowance rates and productivity” among administrative law judges (ALJs).

The report is usually referenced  as the report on the “outlier ALJs,” and it is really worth a read. Two things stood out for me:

  1. The graph (reproduced above and found on page 5 of the report) shows the range of percentages of favorable decisions among the ALJs.
  2. A comment on pages 7-8 of the report states that in a Dallas area hearing office, one of the judges grants 95% of claims, and another of the judges grants just 9% of claims. That’s an 86-point spread.

An application for Social Security disability benefits should not be a lottery. The program has well-defined requirements, and clear regulations that specify the factors that must be considered by ALJs when making a determination regarding eligibilty for disability benefits.

Of course judges are human, and have different perspectives. But an 86-point gap between a judge who grants 19 of 20 claims and a judge in the same office who grants 2 out of 20 claims is startling. These judges, at the very high end and the low end of the spectrum, are the “outlier” ALJs.


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If you are considering an application for Social Security disability benefits, or have already applied and want assistance with your claim, please contact Gordon Gates.