Feb 22, 2016

Guarding The Northern Frontier

     If you are an Alaska resident and have the misfortune of becoming disabled, you'd better hope your Social Security disability claim is approved at the initial or reconsideration level, because if it's not, you probably won't be approved on appeal. Alaska has two Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), both of whom have extremely low allowance rates, around 20%. Their productivity is also low. As a result, backlogs are extremely high at the Alaska hearing office. It's so hard to win there that there are no Social Security attorneys left to represent claimants there. They could no longer make a living after these two ALJs came in. A local newspaper is reporting on the situation but don't expect anything to come of it. I have no doubt that there would be Congressional hearings if there was some other hearing office with only two ALJs who each approved 80% of the cases they heard but 20%? No problem.


Anonymous said...

The Anchorage ODAR has actually improved. The two judges there, at one point, averaged 14% approval. The Cleveland, OH ODAR now has a 31% approval rate. 4 judges grant under 25%.

Anonymous said...

Funny, the prior judge there paid 94% of his cases, and for some reason no one complained about that.

Anonymous said...

@10:50 of course not because MOST people who apply for social security ARE disabled. Not rocket science.

If I was a claimant in Alaska, I would move. Extreme, yes. But if that is the only way to get a fair hearing, so be it.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:16,

I've told clients that the only way to avoid some of our outlier judges (20% or lower approval rate) is to move. Several have and have won their cases. SSA wised up to that, and now will have the original judge on the case preside by VTC if the claimant moves. This is also why our firm rejects all VTC hearings.

Anonymous said...

@11:27AM, the only problem with moving is that if it happens while at the hearing level, the claimant loses the right to object to VTC even if they previously opted out.

Anonymous said...

@11:30, if you live in the area serviced by the Chicago NHC, you are still better off rejecting VTC hearings.

Tim said...

Read comments of Chicago NHC: depressing, even if half is true. I thought ALJ's were supposed to be fair and the hearings non-adverserial!

Anonymous said...

@12:58 PM, Chicago NHC is probably worse than any comments you could have found. It seems as though it has become a repository for the most difficult, hostile and confrontation ALJs. Chicago NHC is precisely the reason we opt out of every VTC.

All you need to do is present the figures to your client and they will certainly agree that opting out of video is in their best interest.


2013 47%
2014 44%
2015 44%

2013 33%
2014 28%
2015 26%

Anonymous said...

"I have no doubt that there would be Congressional hearings if there was some other hearing office with only two ALJs who each approved 80% of the cases they heard but 20%? No problem."

Charles, since according to Mssrs. Issa, Lankford, and Coburn; there is a systemic problem with ALJ's rubber stamping nearly every claimant that comes before them onto the disability rolls; it might be interesting for you to see how many sub 30% granting ALJs there are for every judge that grants over 70 or 80%.

Anonymous said...

“Obviously, these are individuals who have some education, so they would go through this training on how to complete Social Security application, and it would take two or three days,” Fleurant said. “And we expect people with disabilities to do this on their own? It’s just ass-backwards.”

That is exactly what it is. SSA. No apter acronym has ever been spoken.

Anonymous said...

50/50 maybe

Anonymous said...


I didn't know it was that bad. It's not good for marketing the video hearing program if they are shipping people who agree to it off to a National Hearing Center with a significantly lower grant rate.