It's a matter of common knowledge among attorneys who represent Social Security disability claimants that it's harder to win with Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) hired in the last five years or so.
Theories on why this is so range from they've found some way to hire more conservative ALJs to they've found some way to train them to be more conservative to they're somehow encouraging them to deny more claims or they're hiring agency employees who they know will deny claims. I've had doubts about each of these theories.
Let me propose the theory that it has to do with the veterans preference and the end of the military draft. The federal government gives a heavy preference to hiring veterans. This preference has led to far higher percentage of ALJs who are military veterans than in the population of lawyers in general. This didn't matter much when the veterans being hired were mostly of the Viet Nam era as was the case until not that long ago. The draft assured that those who served during that era were not that far from being a microcosm of the male population. The draft ended as the Viet Nam war ended. Military veterans being hired now chose to serve in the military, usually as a career. This cohort is different from their Viet Nam era predecessors. On average -- and, of course, there's plenty of individual variation -- they're considerably more conservative politically and socially, making them more likely to turn a jaundiced eye to disability claims.
That's my theory. What do you think?