The purpose of the Administrative Law Judge in Social security disability and SSI cases
There are, no doubt, many thousands of stories out there about disability judges who were terse, rude, judgmental (no pun intended) and who simply made bad decisions on claims brought before them. And I would not argue with any of them.
However, the fact remains: every claimant who goes before an ALJ has been denied on an initial social security disability or SSI claim and on a first appeal. And roughly half of all claims that are taken to disability hearings...are won by claimants and their representatives.
Because of this, I think it is reasonable to say that the ALJ (administrative law judge) serves as an equalizer, of sorts. At this point, you may be thinking of the old TV show, starring Edward Woodward (he was better in Breaker Morant, by the way). But it's true, without a doubt.
When I was a disability examiner, we used to speak about the great differences in approval rates; that is, cases approved at DDS and cases approved at hearings offices. Unfortunately, most examiners were of the mind that ALJs approved far too many claims (which recon examiners had denied).
However, in my opinion, the examiners who thought this way suffered from tunnel vision. They were unable to view the system in ways other than those related to their job function.
The truth is, how you look at a disability claim and how you look at the person filing the claim probably depends a great deal on whether you actually meet the person.
Disability examiners do not meet the individuals whose claims they are deciding. Disability judges do. To an examiner, a claimant is a file, a job, a performance statistic for one's annual evaluation. And to some extent, this may be true of judges. But judges meet the individuals whose fate they decide. And because of this, for at least a few minutes, the file has a face.
(Remember, disability evaluation is not an objective process. It is subjective and statements to the contrary are wishful thinking at best, and lies at worst---if it was objective, judges would not be overturning so many prior denials).
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