Does My Approval Depend on the Judge Reviewing My Claim?
As a Social Security lawyer, I frequently discuss case strategy with my clients. The strategy often includes ensuring they are treating regularly with their doctors and discussion about the judge who has been assigned to review their case. The importance of medical records has been discussed on our blog many times – and will surely be a topic of future discussion – but this blog post focuses instead on the impact individual judges have on your claim and what the judge’s level of experience may mean.
A report issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) notes that in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) with the most experience had – on average – higher rates of approval than ALJs with fewer years of experience.
ALJ approval rates ranged from 19.9 percent all the way up to 90.9 percent, with the national average approval roughly 53.5 percent. This means that at least one ALJ approves less than 20% of cases before him/her and that at least one ALJ in the country approves more than 90% of cases in from of him/her. On average, judges around the country approve just over half of the cases that come before them.
The ALJ approval rate has fluctuated from a high of 75.2 percent in FY 1994 to a low of 53.5 percent in FY 2015. The 53.5 percent approval rate in FY 2015 was the lowest rate in over twenty years.
All of this taken together means that a little over half of the cases that go before ALJs in the SSA are approved. However, as you can see, approval rates vary depending on the judge reviewing your case. Having an experienced attorney on your side who knows the individual judges and their temperaments can increase your likelihood of success.