With June well behind us, we are halfway through the calendar year and three-quarters through the Fiscal Year for Social Security, which ends September 30th. It is a good time for a look around, to see where we are with Social Security disability claims in the current political and economic climate.
I started the year with a post called "Social Security disability benefits getting harder to obtain," and that has been proven to be true. Allowance rates are down sharply. And anecdotally, even when a favorable decision is received, onset dates are under pressure.
I handle Social Security disability claims primarily in Maine and New Hampshire. I have looked at the statistics for allowance rates of all our administrative law judges (ALJs), and they are down almost across the board, some as much as 20%. Judges who were granting 85% of claims last year are now granting 65% of claims. That is a huge change.
The statistics show that allowance rates for the ALJs in my two ODARs (in Manchester, NH and Portland, ME) now range from 33% to 75% favorable decisions. Two years ago, the lowest judge in the group was at 60% favorable.
I have seen it in my practice. Some close cases have gone the wrong way. It is very frustrating, because these are deserving claimants with claims that have real merit. Similar claims were being granted a year or two ago.
When we see the full FY 2012 statistics, the extent of this sea change will be apparent.
For reference, see the 2011 Waterfall Chart.