Aug 7, 2012

TRAC Report On Federal Court Filings In Social Security Cases

     The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) is a project of some part of Syracuse University. TRAC compiles data on various government functions. TRAC has recently released a report on federal court filings in Social Security cases. These are appeals from final agency decisions denying benefits. Almost all of these are disability benefits cases. They have gone up:

Number Latest Month 860
Percent Change from previous month     3.9%
Percent Change from 1 year ago     19.4%
Percent Change from 5 years ago     62.6%
     Here is a chart from the report showing the gross numbers on new federal court filings in Social Security cases:

     TRAC also studied which federal court districts had the heaviest rate of federal court filings in Social Security cases (sorry about this table not lining up so well -- the problems are caused by limitations in the way that TRAC presents the data and limitations in Blogger):

     The increase in the number of federal court appeals should surprise no one familiar with the way the program operates. Administrative Law Judges are denying more claims. The Appeals Council is remanding fewer cases. More claims are being filed. If anything, Social Security should be happy that it's not seeing a bigger increase in these appeals.
     By the way, note that the areas with the heaviest filing rate tend to be in the South. A lot of this has to do with demographics. The South produces more disability claims because of lower educational levels and work skills in its population and poorer access to health care.


Anonymous said...

There is an unfortunate blase attitude at SSA that court caseloads are irrelevant to the agency workload. The problem is the possible perception on the part of District Court Judges and Magistrates that SSA is not doing a thorough job in adjudicating claims, as the SS caseload increases in the courts. This may eventually lead to less deference on the part of the courts to SSA's decisions, which will in turn lead to more remands. SSA does need to care about whether the record was properly developed at the time of the final AC decision, else the case will eventually work its way back to SSA.

Anonymous said...

I don't see this exploding--the District Courts are not interested in taking a ton of these appeals, and won't just because more people are asking them to. Perhaps there will finally be some "finality" to all these appeals.

Anonymous said...

2:31 PM - I'm not sure what you mean. When you file a complaint in the District Court, the complaint is "taken" and the case must be reviewed and a decision made at that level. If by taking you mean considering each appeal solely on its merits, the District Court is required to do this. If by taking you mean remanding or reversing, then you are insinuating that the District Courts will somehow be cutting corners in making decisions on Social Security cases just because they may have a lot of these appeals. Are you making this claim based on any evidence or is it just that you think that claimants who had the misfortune to appear before an ALJ who did not follow the rules do not deserve their legally mandated right to appeal?

Anonymous said...

You're insinuating that the Appeals Council slept on ALJ decisions that did not follow the rules.

I meant that the District Courts can very easily find evidence in each claim that either upholds the decision or requires it to be remanded, but that with the knowledge that the AC is entertaining many more appeals, would be likely to do more of the former.