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Congressional hearing examines uneven disability approval rates

Although there is a processing backlog of applications for Social Security disability insurance benefits, a recent article illustrates why giving short shrift to the application procedure benefits no one. 

Specifically, a recent congressional hearing focused on nearly 200 administrative judges accused of perfunctorily approving SSDI applications. In one example, an administrative law judge approved approximately 99 percent of the cases he oversaw in an eight-year period. 

On the other hand, an attorney that focuses on disability benefits would remind readers that around two-thirds of initial SSDI applications are denied. After appeals are exhausted, the approval rate still remains low, usually less than 40 percent nationwide.

On a national scale, the approval rate among administrative law judges is just 56 percent of cases. Given the discrepancy between the approval rates of the 200 judges and the national average, an inquiry may be understandable. However, a disability benefits attorney might argue that the national average is far too low.

For example, an application for SSDI benefits requires substantial documentation of a physical or mental disability, treatment records, and other evidence of how that condition affects an individual’s functioning. In other words, the process is not easy. Those who go through the work of preparing a thorough application may be deserving of benefits, yet the recent scrutiny of approval rates may only make it even harder to qualify. With the help of an attorney, an applicant can better navigate the administrative hurdles of the Social Security Administration, whether that involves an initial application or multiple appeals. 

Source: Boston Herald, "Report: Social Security judges rubber-stamp claims," June 10, 2014

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