The media likes publishing sensational articles about disability fraud, such as the recent incident involving New York City police officers. The New York Times op-ed published an op-ed written by D. Randall Frye railing about the “fraudsters.” The Times failed to disclose that Frye is an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) with an abnormally low approval rate for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) cases. According to DisabilityJudges.com, ALJ Frye approves 29% of his cases compared to the overall 57% average of the Charlotte hearing office that includes his decisions, which is twice as high.
Frye proclaims that he is, “more familiar than most people with the system.” If that is true, then why didn’t he provide a more accurate picture of “the system.” As an ALJ, especially the one who is the President of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, you would expect him to provide a neutral opinion that presents both sides of the story. Frye’s failure to do so evidences that he is not a neutral adjudicator, but rather perceives claimants as out to beat “the system,” which is substantiated by his low approval rate.
What Frye failed to disclose is that from 2010 to 2012, statistics not only show that fewer people are applying for disability benefits, but also that fewer people are being approved. That reflects a decrease of about 7%. Presumably the final 2013 statistics will continue the trend. ALJs have commented to me and my colleagues off-the-record that they have received directions that they must have stronger grounds to approve cases, and the Appeals Council is remanding more ALJ approvals for additional evidence.
Not only are fewer cases being granted, but it is taking longer to get them approved. I have discussed that the wait for a hearing on an SSD appeal can be avoided by asking an attorney advisor to consider issuing a fully favorable decision. However, the SSA issued a bulletin that now makes it virtually impossible for them to approve an OTR. As a result, I have stopped submitting OTRs, which I used to do on almost every case.