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I first starting tracking allowance rates on this blog over 15 years ago. Back in 2008 and 2009, ALJ allowance rates were steady at 63%. From that level, there has been a significant slide in allowance rates at the ALJ level:

  • 62% in 2010
  • 58% in 2011
  • 53% in 2012
  • 48% in 2013
  • 45% in 2014
  • 45% in 2015
  • 46% in 2016
  • 47% in 2017
  • 45% in 2018
  • 45% in 2019
  • 49% in 2020
  • 51% in 2021
  • 51% in 2022
  • 45% in 2023

To be fair, allowance rates at the initial level of review have crept up from the 2010 baseline of 35% of initial claims to 38% in 2022 and 39% in 2023. Since there are many more initial claims than claims at the hearing level, it is a notable increase.

Those of us practicing Social Security disability law are well aware of the changes in allowance rates at all levels over the past 15 years. ALJ allowance rates slid downward in the years after 2010, stabilizing at around 45%. They trended up slightly during the COVID era, and are now back down to 45% again, which seems to be the new baseline.

This is not just an abstract discussion. With 200,000 to 300,000 claims at the hearing level every year, the reduction of allowance rates means tens of thousands of claimants have their disability claims denied instead of granted each year. Not every disability case is a clear winner or a clear loser. For those claims in the middle, the chances of receiving benefits at the hearing level are now significantly lower.