Study Reveals Positive Effect of Professional Representation at Social Security Hearings

Social Security HearingsA Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of hearings-level award rates for disability claims revealed that “claimants who had representation at their hearings, were allowed benefits at a rate nearly 3 times higher than those without representatives.” The report also quotes SSA officials stating “that a representative can help the claimant by ensuring that the medical evidence and other records are fully developed and help the claimant present their case at a hearing.” At Bailey & Galyen we have always believed in the value of personal quality representation, but it is useful to have validation from an official source. The report, entitled “Additional Measures and Evaluation Needed to Enhance Accuracy and Consistency of Hearings Decisions,” was released in January 2018. It studied Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decisions made on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims between Fiscal Years 2007 and 2015, a period where requests for hearings increased, peaked, and then declined. During this period, 77% of claimants at ALJ hearings had attorney representatives and 12% had non-attorney representatives.

During the studied period, the variation in award rates between ALJs shrank slightly, but the overall allowance rates decreased significantly. ALJs who joined the Social Security Administration (SSA) between 1995 and 1999, and were still at the agency between 2007 and 2015, had higher award rates than newer ALJs. Several factors correlated with allowance rate: older claimants were more likely to be awarded benefits than younger adults and having a critical case, a college education, and a claim for SSDI rather than SSI also increased the chance of an award. Hearings that included testimony from a medical expert were more likely than the average claim to result in an award of benefits, while vocational expert testimony decreased the chance of an award.

These numbers further prove that a finding of disability is getting harder to obtain. Now more than ever, it is imperative that you have an experienced, qualified, and hardworking representative on your side when applying for disability. If you are hurt, injured, or otherwise impaired, and unable to work please contact us at Bailey and Galyen for a free case evaluation.