GAO Report Shows Positive Impact of Legal Representation
According to a new study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), SSI and SSDI claimants who had legal representation in disability claims were allowed benefits at a rate nearly three times higher than those without an attorney. The report explains that, in part, this is due to legal representatives’ ability to select claims that are likely to be successful.
Titled “Additional Measures and Evaluation Needed to Enhance Accuracy and Consistency of Hearings Decisions,” the report was released in January 2018. It studies administrative law judge’s (ALJ) decisions made on SSI and SSDI claims between FY 2007 and 2015, which is a time period when requests for hearings increased, peaked, and then declined. During these years, 77 percent of claimants at ALJ hearings had legal counsel and 12 percent did not.
During this time period, the variation among ALJs in award rate slightly shrank and the overall allowance rates substantially decreased. ALJs who joined SSA between 1995 and 1999, and remained with the agency between 2007 and 2015, had higher award rates compared to newer ALJs.
The following are several factors which correlated with allowance rate:
- Older claimants were more likely to be awarded benefits than younger adults
- Having a critical case, a college education and a claim for SSDI as opposed to SSI increased the chance of an award
- Hearings which included testimony from a medical expert were more likely than the average claim to result in a benefits award
- Vocational expert testimony decreased the chance of an award
According to SSA officials, a legal representative can help the claimant by ensuring that the medical evidence and other records are obtained and help the claimant present their case at a hearing. If you have been disabled and become unable to perform your job properly, you may be entitled to benefits with the help of an experienced attorney today.