My Social Security Disability Case

4/2/2016 Update:  The ALJ Disposition Data Spreadsheet has gone the way of lots of software that was state of the art; it doesn't work anymore.  You can see the statistics and comparisons on the post dated 2/26/2011 and titled The Social Security Administration does not like negative publicity.

12/17/13:  Updated all links.  Dot & her Fibro Mom's blog has been gone for years now.  They have a Facebook page but nothing has been posted there since 2011.  I hope they are doing so much better that they don't have time for blogging about illness!  

2/29/12 Update:  The Fibro World Blog seems to be offline for now.  I'm leaving the links in the hope that they will be back.  That was really a great blog and I hope Fibro Dot and her Fibro Mom are OK. 

I never got around to doing all of the Georgia lawyers like I said I was going to in this post.  Oh well. 

I've decided to blog about my Social Security Disability case.  I've held off on doing this because of the potentially detrimental effect it could have on my job search, if I'm ever able to work again. The reasons I've made the decision to write about my SSD experiences are:
  1. Because people seem interested in the process and it might help others with their own SSD cases. (See Dot Gets SSD for Fibromyalgia and the comments, from Fibro World.)  I can't find anything that's been posted by Dot or her mom since 2011.  Both of these links are dead.
  2. To make pubic some interesting statistics about the approve and denial rates of some Administrative Law Judges in Georgia.
I'm going to start with what is currently almost the end of the story. The Administrative Law Judge's decision in my case was Fully Unfavorable. That means no way, no how.

I'm filing an appeal to the hearing decision, with a different lawyer than the one who went to the hearing with me.

I was reading a blog post by my previous lawyer, Lack of Consistency Among Social Security Judges a Problem that tells about a "...project undertaken by a newspaper in Oregon to evaluate the "approve rate" of the Administrative Law Judges presiding over hearings in that State.  It turns out that one of these Oregon judges approves only 11% of the cases he hears, whereas the average approval rate for judges in Oregon is just over 50%."

I started wondering if there were any statistics like they used in the Oregon project available on Georgia judges.  I had almost given up searching when I found the ALJ Disposition Data on the Social Security Administration's own website. 

So I checked out my judge's stats in the ALJ Disposition Data and continued to wonder how he could have decided against a person (me) with two reputable M.D.s saying she can't work, literally reams of medical records and a full-time work history going back 25 years including a college degree. I acknowledge it might not that clear cut looking at the facts from his perspective, but there was definitely enough for a reasonable person to decide in my favor.  More on proof of that later.

It wasn't until a couple of nights ago when I was pondering this information again that I thought about the judge who had decided three of my friends' cases at hearing at around the same time as my hearing. I know these ladies from our FM support group, and  I knew they all had the same judge and I knew his name.  So I looked up his stats on the ALJ Disposition Data website.

Then I made a spreadsheet and figured the percentages on each judge's data, below. Click "Full Screen" at the top of the spreadsheet to make it larger.  Click "Esc" on your keyboard to come back to this page.

ALJ Disposition Data Spread Sheet- Click the link and download the .pdf  of the comparisons of the judges' data.

Pretty startling, huh?  This is just two judges from Georgia; I'm going to pick out the rest of the Georgia judges from the ALJ Disposition Data and put them in the spreadsheet.  Then I'll have a more accurate comparison.  But still, it just doesn't seem fair that the luck of the draw should have everything to do with winning or losing a disability hearing.  In fact, I think it's ridiculous.

As you can see, my judge is pretty slow compared to Judge Washington.  That's because he has made twice as many Partially Unfavorable decisions as Judge Washington on less than half the total decisions, and where Judge Lewis has 39% denials, Judge Washington only has 8%.  It takes a long time to go through an entire case file, and then to write a denial or partially favorable decision.  In my case I think he should have gone with the two doctors opinions.  Instead he chose to tear through my entire file (in which all of my main doctor's notes are handwritten and completely illegible to me), and make a medical decision completely contradicting my doctors' opinions.  This guy studied law, not medicine.

OK, I meant this to be a short intro to my experiences so I'll stop for now.


  1. I hope your new lawyer is able to help. And I thank you for having the courage to write about it!!

  2. Thanks, Aviva, for the sentiment and for the compliment.


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