In statistics, an outlier is any piece of data in a particular study that does not fit in with, or is incongruous with the other data. Put simply, it lies outside the realm of the other information. This term is sometimes used to describe the performance of judges, based on their statistics of approved versus denied cases compared to national averages.
Lately there has been a lot of press about outlier judges who decide Social Security Disability claims. There are about 1500 judges across the country who handle thousands of SSD cases every year in ODARs across the country. The average percentage of cases approved by these judges is around 60%.
In spite of this deceiving statistic, the media is drawing attention to a number of outlier judges who approve nearly 100% of disability cases every year, which is an outrage to those who view Social Security Disability as an increasing burden to a dwindling workforce of taxpayers supporting a massive sea of ‘disabled’ individuals who receive the status as a result of these outlying judges.
On the other hand, there are some Social Security Disability judges who approve as little as 30% of cases they see every year. In this case, those who are applying for benefits are rightfully outraged by what appears to be blanket denials regardless of proof presented for legitimate disabling conditions.
With this disturbing evidence that there is a very real possibility for biased decisions made by administrative law judges who decide Social Security Disability cases, claimants and political activists alike are left feeling helpless. After all, if judges aren’t making just decisions, what recourse does the public have? Many journalists and bloggers are seeking to enlighten citizens about the discrepancies between outlier judges who approve or deny Social Security Disability claims.
Attorneys who specialize in disability cases are likely to know the track records of particular judges in an area because of their personal experience in representing claims at hearings. They know that it is possible to present the same exact case before two judges who will make completely opposite rulings, so they will advise you to steer clear of those who are known for mostly negative decisions. Recently, some disability lawyers have gone as far as to bring class action lawsuits against those who are habitually biased against granting Social Security benefits to seriously disabled individuals.
For disabled individuals planning to file a Social Security claim on their own, there are online tools available to help you chart particular judges’ decision records and where they fall in relation to other judges. There is even one such tool available on the SSA’s own website, which should be proof enough that the SSA is not biased against disability benefit applicants.
In coming years, as an increasing number of clients, attorneys, advocates, and ordinary citizens become aware of the flaws in the system that determines whether disability benefits are awarded, there will undoubtedly be more aggressive steps taken to ensure that judges are held to the appropriate standards and corrected for unlawful bias.