A new study by the Government Accountable Office (GAO) has found that Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJ's) decide the same types of cases differently even when such factors that might cause variations are taken into account. The difference in approval rates could be as much as 46% depending on which judge heard the case.
Better Call Saul (Or Somebody Like Him)
One of the biggest variations in who gets approved turned on whether a Social Security disability applicant has a representative.
Per the GAO study, Social Security judges approved disability applicants with a lawyer (or other representatives) three times as often as those going it alone.
Is Justice Blind Or Just Random?
Having such a large variation in which Social Security disability applicants get approved is not a good thing. If judges were deciding cases on their merits, their decisions should be fairly close to uniform. A
difference of almost 50% in who gets approved suggests that the system is approaching random status. It also strongly hints at judges picking winners based on factors that they should not be considering.
Recommendations For Improving
The GAO issued recommendations to Social Security to assist them in getting the decision of judges to be more uniform. The GAO recommendations focused on quality control as the method to achieve this goal. There is no way to make the system perfect, but it seems that Social Security can do better than this.