Mar 18, 2016

Appeals Council Slides Further Into Worthlessness

     David Paletta has put together an interesting chart showing what's been happening at Social Security's Appeals Council in recent years. What's mostly been happening is that the rate at which the Appeals Council is giving relief to the claimant, either by remand or reversal, has plummeted. Click on the chart below to view it at full size. Also, though not shown on the chart below, productivity has declined from 138,262 decisions in 2013 to 116,078 in 2015.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, the Appeals Council has worth only insofar as it provides relief to claimants?

The increase in the agree rate is easily explained by the Agency's concerted effort to improve the quality of decisions and the recession fueled increase in questionable applications.

TruthBtold said...

@ 10:06 AM. That would seem to be a logical...until one reviews the remand and allowance figures from USDC. There has been an increase in the overall number of cases remanded or allowed in USDC each and every year between 2012 and 2015. Comparing 2012 to 2015, there was an increase of over 1600 cases either remanded or allowed. More cases are being appealed into USDC each year and the remand rate is holding steady in the low to mid 40% range and allowances at either 2-3% each year.

If the increase in the agree rate by the AC actually meant there was improvement in the quality of the decisions, one would expect the percentage of cases remanded or allowed in USDC to go down. Thus your position is not supported by the facts.

Anonymous said...

2012-2015 is when the recession claims hit the USDC level. An overall increase is expected. A percentage would be more useful.

TruthBtold said...

I thought I mentioned the percentages pretty much stayed the same during that time period. With the increased number of USDC filings, this resulted in a net increase in the number of remands or allowances by USDC. If the decisions were getting better, the USDC remand/allowance rates would be expected to go down.

Here are the percentages from SSA waterfall charts.
2012: 45% remand, 3% allowance (14,575 decisions)
2013: 42% remand, 2% allowance (16,029 decisions)
2014: 43% remand, 2% allowance (18,193 decisions)
2015: 45% remand, 2% allowance (18,348 decisions)

The issue of the recession claims hitting the USDC level is a complete red herring. The number of cases decided at the AC went down 2013 vs 2014 vs 2015 yet the actual number of remands/allowances by USDC increased as more claims were being appealed. This would indicate the quality of the decisions coming from the AC did not in fact improve. If anything, it declined as a greater number were appealed to USDC even if when the total number coming out of the AC declined.

Anonymous said...

Since the OIG discovered that t the Appeals Council “reduced the number of performance goals shared with the public” in their 2014 report, http://oig.ssa.gov/sites/default/files/audit/full/pdf/A-12-13-13039.pdf
I suggest the statistics used are probably even worse for the claimant and a real review. The OIG also found that AC established quality control initiatives covering AC workloads were limited in duration, review results were undocumented and lacked a monitoring system to identify trends and collectively did not cover all parts of the AC workload.
The truth is We Don’t Know What They Are Doing and they have no reason to tell us. Moreover SSA and Congress really don’t seem to care. Here is the word Star-chamber. Yep. It is just disgusting. I read a post recently in another blog where a representative was looking for someone to take his AC denial to district court. He stated his claimant had been Stat Blind by multiple testing over the last few years. The thing is, that’s is totally possible with this worthless agency.

Anonymous said...

@ 12.44

Drops mic,

BOOM!

Anonymous said...

When the Agency abandoned the idea of a monthly dispositional "goal" and instead developed various metrics to decide how well ODAR was doing, one of those metrics is the AC's "agree rate". The adoption of this metric coincides with the AC's surge in denials. You I'm sure would be shocked to hear the metric target for the AC is an 85% agree rate. Huh, the agree rate for the last 2 years has been 85% and 86%. Now that's either an amazing coincidence or pressure from the powers that be to ensure that the metric is being met, you can decide which,

Anonymous said...

and, also, to add to my own comment above, that is what should also terrify the claimant's Bar about the agency's plan to have AAJ's supplement ALJ's and starting to hear overpayment cases as well as remanded cases instead of APA judges. When AAJ's start to hear cases, whatever Agency metric is set for them to define "success" will be met regardless of how fair that ends up being to claimants.

Anonymous said...

appeals council is now denying cases as fast as they can my VERY strong case was dismissed even tho I had 3 prior nearly identical remands stating the ALJ's Error-ed in application of the CFR's / rules. My guess is they did not even want to go over nearly 8 years of files they just denied it in my mind and many others unjustly. Here comes the mass denials to get the numbers down folks get ready.

Anonymous said...

4:06 nails it. ODAR seems to be operating under the following fallacy: AC agree rate = ALJs are doing a good job. So obviously if the agree rate were to go down, the ALJs would look bad - and it's not in the agency's interest to make the ALJs look bad, right?

The fallacy works well for them in certain Circuits. And in those Circuits with high remand rates? The agency appears to believe that there's a problem with magistrate judges not "understanding" the law. A very hubris driven organization, ODAR.

Anonymous said...

It should also be known that rank and file ALJs do rotations at the AC.

Anonymous said...

That failed experiment has been discontinued according to reliable sources.

Arizona Jim said...

I was lucky I got a AC remand in only 7 months about a year-and-half ago and they were surprisingly harsh on the ALJ for ignoring the law (he dismissed my claim on judicata grounds when there was no prior file and then lied and said all my evidence was "duplicate" from a previous filling I was not a party of or had knowledge of.

swetty.girl said...

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Tim said...

6:47 PM What you describing is called circular reasoning. "Scientists" do it all the time. You ask the geologist how old a rock layer is. He'll give you an age, based upon what index fossils are in it. So, you ask the paleontologist how old the fossil is, he'll tell you based upon what rock layer it was found in. So, the ALJ must have increased their "quality" because their are fewer remands. The AC is doing better "quality" because they are "agreeing" more with the ALJs. Well, Bevis and Butthead must both be geniuses because they agree 99.9999 percent of the time! As for better "quality," graphs on this blog from last fall demonstrate that a large percentage of those denied at all levels (especially those who had a hearing), never are able to return to work anywhere near where they once were and are unable to sustain even a reduced work level! So, if 100 idiots agree with each 99.99999 percent of the time, it doesn't mean they're right!