In previous posts on this blog, we have talked about the high rate at which the Social Security Administration rejects initial applications, prompting most applicants to at least consider filing appeals.
However, a recent analysis of agency statistics revealed that the appeals process may be just as problematic. According to reports, federal judges have found errors and bad judgments in about 60 percent of cases handled by administrative law judges. These issues continue to happen because of a few contributing factors.
Administrative law judges (ALJs) currently hear as many as 600 cases a year. At this rate, they generally spend fewer than three hours on each case. This is not enough time to make well-informed decisions on complicated cases.
Because of these time constraints, ALJs are quick to deny claims if there are any suspected inaccuracies or missing information. If a person’s case or condition is complex, it is even less likely that a judge will make a decision that accurately reflects the totality of information the applicant submits.
Less reliance on doctors’ expertise
Another troubling factor is the Social Security’s policy changes that give less weight to the opinions of medical providers who may have been treating a patient for years. Instead, updated policies allow ALJs to ignore opinions from some doctors and put more weight into the decisions of contracted doctors who have far less experience treating an individual applicant.
Giving less importance to medical opinions and relying more on things like treatment notes means that ALJs often lack the full understanding of a person’s condition and how it affects them.
Penalties for high approval rates
Another serious systemic issue is that judges can actually face increased scrutiny and potential punishments if their approval rates are too high. Those who award benefits to the majority of claimants can be subject to new oversight and pressure to deny claims, and some judges have even been fired for being generous in their decisions.
These reasons are just some of those behind the difficulty and setbacks you could experience as you navigate the process of seeking Social Security disability benefits.
However, as frustrating and time-consuming as the appeals process might be, you deserve a fair and thorough examination of your claim for benefits. This outcome can be easier to secure with an understanding of what you are up against and the help of an attorney.