Social Security Disability Hearings – by the Numbers

July 27, 2012 Government Regulation No comment

I like statistics, especially when they involve sports. But the Social Security Administration (SSA) puts out lots of stats regarding Social Security Disability claims too. Some break claims numbers down by Hearing Office location. As background, understand that where you live determines which Social Security hearing office (called “ODAR”) hears your case.

For instance, take a look at these averages:

Bronx: 9 months- 55%

Brooklyn: 12 months – 70.2%

Jericho (Long Island): 9 months- 68.8 %.

Manhattan:8 months- 52.7%

Queens: 10 months- 55.1%

The above data were compiled over 2011 and 2012. The figures in the left hand column are the average wait time for a hearing after a denied claimant has appealed. That’s right—you may have an average wait time of a year to get a hearing in front of a Social Security Disability Judge once you are denied at the initial level!

On the other hand, the figures on the right are your average chance of winning the case fully —once you get to a hearing—-in that hearing location. That’s right again— you have a better chance of winning your case at some hearing offices rather than others.

Why should this be? The simple answer is that hearing Judges are human. They have their own biases and their own penchants for how they view persons applying for Disability. Each hearing office has its own set of Judges.

On April 12, 2011, a group called the “Mental Health Project” filed a class action lawsuit charging systematic bias against low-income and foreign-born individuals seeking Social Security disability benefits in Queens.

The Queens ODAR had the third highest benefits-denial rate in the country and the highest benefits-denial rate in the New York region, based on data covering decisions from 2005 to 2008. Almost all of the Judges named in the suit ranked high on the national list of top claims deniers.

What’s interesting is that since the suit was filed, things have changed in Queens ODAR. Queens isn’t even the highest denial-rate ODAR in the NY metro area anymore. (The Queens Judges used to deny many many more cases than they approved.) There was a shakeup there, however, involving quite a number of the Judges, no doubt due to the lawsuit. Now, apparently, the Queens hearing office is actually a little above the national average in finding in favor of the disabled claimant.

The national average wait time for a hearing is 11 months. The national average “fully favorable” decision (win) percentage for Social Security disability hearings is 52.5%

That’s what the SSA’s stats tell us.

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