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Social Security Changes Administrative Law Judge Job Descriptions

By Kenton Koszdin Law Office on March 24, 2014 | In Social Security Claims Process

At the end of 2013, the Social Security Agency (SSA) changed the job description of the administrative law judges (ALJs) who are responsible for awarding or denying Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Ostensibly, the changes were made so that SSA could wield more oversight over judges who are making SSDI claims decisions. Traditionally ALJs have been given broad discretion when it comes to making SSDI claim determinations. The independence given to the some 1,500 judges in the system has led to unpredictable results; some judges have approved high percentages of claims, while other judges have denied high percentages of claims.

The changes in the job description strips judges of their “complete individual independence” and will allow SSA to take corrective measures against judges whose rulings are considered outside the norm of SSDI approval or denial rates. Currently, the average rate of approvals nationwide for SSDI benefits stands at about 50 percent.

Some see this move by SSA as bowing to political pressure from social security administrators and a conservative congress. Certain politicians point to the record number of Americans who currently receive SSDI benefits as proof that judges are out of control and that the system is rife with fraud.

The president of the Administrative Law Judge Union believes that making this type of drastic change is “just wrong.” He is concerned that the new policies will impair a judge’s ability to rule on benefits fairly.

“From my perspective, and I think from most judge’s perspectives, that’s never good for the American people,” he said. He did add that he thought the hearing process should be more transparent. Currently, hearings are not open to the public.

For its part, SSA claims the old job descriptions were outdated and that the process for making the changes was years in the making.

It is still unclear how these changes will affect you if you are seeking to have your SSDI claim approved. It may reign in judges who have been accused of green lighting an excessive percentage of claims. Yet, if the changes do what SSA claims they were put in place to do, it will also sanction judges with exceedingly low approval rates. Time will tell.

As always, if you have questions or concerns about your SSDI claim, the Kenton Koszdin Law Office in Los Angeles is here to help you. We can help you file your claim and we are committed to protecting your legal rights throughout the process. Call us toll-free at (800) 438-7734 or contact us online today concerning your case.

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