In 2010, 62% of Social Security Disability claims at hearing offices were approved. That number is now about 36%. Simultaneously, Administrative Law Judges (“ALJ”s) are requesting excessive support before approving SSD claims. In short, the SSA decided or it was directed to reduce the number of claims being approved, and to justify their approvals, ALJs are required to insist of receiving superfluous medical evidence.
I represent a client who stopped working after 35 years as an accounts payable clerk when she was 60 years old due to physical and mental impairments. It should be obvious that anyone with that type of work history would continue working if able to do so. Surgical reports, EMG and MRI testing, treatment records, and opinions from the claimant’s internist, both treating and IME physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, and psychiatrist, were all submitted to support the SSD application. Nonetheless, the ALJ insisted that the claimant provide additional treatment records before approving the SSD application.
It is unclear why cumulative medical evidence is required. It could be that the ALJ was hoping to find something in the records that could be singled out to deny the claim. It is possible that the ALJ feels pressured to provide overwhelming evidence to justify an approval to avoid her decisions from being reviewed by quality control. Regardless of the reason, what is clear is that the old status quo is gone.