Government Accountability Office Recommends Additional Measures for Hearing Decision Consistency
Recently, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) – an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress and reviews how the federal government spends taxpayer income – reviewed decisions by Social Security Administration (SSA) Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to determine whether the decisions are consistent and why or why not.
The consistency of judges is a large topic in SSA practice, because if you are denied your initial and reconsideration claims for benefits, the ALJ becomes the “audience” for your claim. Therefore, you and your attorney must take your specific assigned judge into account when preparing for your hearing.
Unfortunately, this inconsistency can “kill” your SSA claim, depending on which judge your case is assigned. It is this degree of variability that the GAO reviewed and found that the approval rates from judge to judge varied, by as much as 46 percentage points if different judges heard the same claim!
To address this problem, the GAO recommended that SSA evaluate its quality assurance reviews and take steps to reduce or better manage any unnecessary overlap among them. SSA agreed with the GAO’s recommendation and will address them during a “comprehensive assessment” of its oversight.
Interestingly, the GAO found that when claimants had a representative, they were approved at a rate nearly three times higher than those without representatives. If you would like to speak with an experienced attorney who may be able to help you obtain your Social Security benefits, call us at (904) 777-7777, or email us using our contact form.