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The approval odds on a Social Security Disability hearing

What are the odds of having your Social Security Disability case approved once you finally get in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)?

The answer depends largely on which ALJ hears your case. It shouldn't, but it does.

According to the government's own studies, the allowance rates between some ALJs and others can vary up to 46 percent — a massive difference to claimants. Some judges are simply harsher than others when reviewing the evidence in front of them.

Even though the government has begun initiatives designed to make administrative decisions more uniform, the gap between judicial outcomes only narrowed by 5 percent in the last eight years.

What assistance is available for claimanst about to face an ALJ? According to the same study, these are the things that will tilt the decision process in your favor:

  • Your age. Older claimants have a better chance of being approved because they are considered less likely to be able to adapt to a new position.
  • Degree of impairment. Having an impairment that is among those listed in the Social Security Administration's "Blue Book" of listings makes it easier to get approved because there are fewer steps involved in the decision-making process.
  • Having a representative. Claimants who are represented in front of the ALJ by either attorneys or knowledgeable others get approved three times more than those lacking representation.

Even though the Social Security Administration has quality review methods in place that are designed to check the accuracy of hearing results, ALJs still wield tremendous amounts of power over the outcomes of claims. The reviews have never been evaluated to see if they are doing any good despite costing the agency in excess of $11 million in 2016 alone.

While you can't do anything about changing your age or your impairment, you can give yourself an edge when you file by getting help with your Social Security Disability application and appeal. The better your information is presented to the ALJ, the easier it is for him or her to approve your case.

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, "Social Security Disability," accessed Feb. 16, 2018

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