It is becoming more difficult for an applicant to obtain Social Security Disability benefits if the applicant’s case goes before an administrative law judge, according to the non-profit, non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The ALJ allowance rate fell from 63 percent in 2008 and 2009 to 45 percent in 2014, according to a recent report. In 2014, the rate of gaining approval for benefits from an ALJ dropped for the fifth straight year.

This news underscores the importance of having your case thoroughly prepared for a hearing before an ALJ in order to present the strongest case possible. An attorney can play a crucial role in helping you to establish your right to benefits at such a hearing.

Report: Congressional Criticism May Be Driving Down ALJ Approval Rate

A review by an ALJ is the second level of appeal for a worker who is applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. If a claim is initially rejected, the applicant can request reconsideration. If the claim is denied again, the applicant can seek a hearing before an ALJ.

In many cases, a hearing before an ALJ can be successful. This is because the applicant can appear and testify, addressing issues the applicant may have been unable to address in the earlier stages.

A high rate of approval at the ALJ hearing level over a stretch of several years led to charges that many judges were awarding benefits to undeserving claimants simply because the Social Security Administration (SSA) wanted to close cases faster. As a Congressional report noted, “allowances are much easier to issue than denials, and allowances, unlike denials, are not appealed.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that it is likely that the recent drop in the allowance rate is a result of the SSA’s increased oversight of ALJs in response to Congressional criticism.

The SSA is now assigning fewer cases to each ALJ, monitoring ALJs with significant high or low approval rates and reviewing samples of ALJ decisions.

Unfortunately, the tightened controls on ALJs may be making it tougher on applicants who truly qualify for and need SSD benefits.

A Lawyer Can Play a Crucial Role in Obtaining SSD Benefits

The best way to overcome a potential roadblock at the hearing level is to obtain approval at the initial or “reconsideration” levels.

At Frank M. Eidson, P.A., we work with applicants to ensure their applications thoroughly document their disability and their eligibility for benefits. We help applicants from the start of the process and at the “reconsideration” stage.

We know that it is common for people to make technical mistakes with an SSD benefits application. These applications require detailed medical and work histories, and the paperwork can be challenging for many. Most applicants have never had to gather this type of information before.

But we do it every day, and we know the mistakes that can be made and how to avoid them.

We also realize that even a carefully prepared application may be rejected at the initial and reconsideration levels. This is why it is important to keep fighting for the benefits you deserve at the ALJ hearing level – and to have an attorney by your side who will fight with you.

If you are seeking SSD benefits, Frank M. Eidson can help you at any stage of your claim, including representing you in an ALJ hearing. Contact us today for a confidential review of your case and a free discussion of the claims process.


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