Tuesday, January 17, 2017

SSD Bench Decisions

Virtually every client appearing for a hearing on a Social Security Disability (“SSD”) claim asks when they can expect to receive a decision, or will the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) say what the decision is at the hearing. 

It is a rare case when an ALJ tells a claimant at a hearing, that is, from the “bench,” that SSD benefits are being approved. When that happens, the ALJ frequently issues a bench decision for the fully favorable decision. The written decision that follows in a few days is shorter than a typical fully favorable written decision. 

I find it surprising that more bench decisions are not issued. ALJs consistently state that they are under significant pressure to issue more decisions. Producing a bench decision takes less time and effort than a traditional written decision. I represent a former automotive repairer with a bad back and knees who received a bench decision today. I suspect that ALJs usually do not issue bench decisions because they may want to avoid having to explain at a hearing why they are unwilling to issue a bench decision to other claimants.

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