Social Security Says Disparities in Decisions Normal

Facing criticisms of being a flawed and broken system, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) has gone on the offensive and responded to a recent study out of Syracuse University. The study reaches a similar conclusion that many news articles in recent times have – applicants’ chances at receiving disability benefits depend more on the judge than their actual case.

The study is available for the public to view online through the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (“TRAC”) at the university. It found that disability applicants’ chances vary widely depending on the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) whom they go in front of. The researchers arrived at this conclusion by analyzing nearly two million disability cases.

The SSA counters by calling the study “sloppy and irresponsible.” It argues that what matters most to disability applicants is how quickly their case reaches a decision, not how many people are waiting for a hearing. It also says that ALJs have substantial independence to make their disability benefits decisions, so variation is natural.

What do you think about the SSA’s response to criticisms? Should there be some guidelines or benchmarks so that a disability applicant in New York City receives the same chance to get benefits as one in Oklahoma? The application process follows the same procedures, so it seems unfair that, with two people suffering from the exact same condition, one may receive benefits and the other may go home empty-handed.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability lawyers


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