Years ago when I first started practicing Social Security disability law, the conventional wisdom was that with an attorney your chances of success at the hearing level of appeal in North Alabama ran as high as 60%-70%.
Unfortunately, the rate of that high success percentage has plummeted.
According to disabilityjudges.com, the Florence Office of Disability Adjudication and Appeal’s (ODAR’s) current approval rate is 31% — the lowest of the four ODARs in Alabama.
Birmingham’s approval rate sits at 50%, Mobile is 45% and Montgomery is 41%. Franklin TN’s ODAR, which has started handling hearings arising out of the Decatur area, is 53%.
So, according to the raw numbers alone, your chance of winning a hearing is 53% at best. Depending upon where you live, however, it can be much lower.
Nevertheless, generally it is still higher than your chances of success at the initial application level, which hover around 30%.
Losing the Social Security Appeal
Losing at the hearing level of appeal does not necessarily spell the end of your claim. You can appeal the Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ’s) decision to the Appeals Council.
Generally, this is a paper appeal and there is no hearing required. You have to show that an egregious error was committed somewhere in the appeals process that was contrary to law and resulted in an unjust decision.
Again, according to the raw numbers, the chances that the Appeals Council remands your claim for another hearing is about 17%, or rules outright in your favor is about 1%. There are a couple more possible outcomes but this gives you the general picture. It takes about 18-24 months to get a response from the Appeals Council.
If you are not successful at the Appeals Council level of appeal, you can go even further and file suit against the Social Security Administration in Federal court, all the way to the Supreme Court. Going to this length is fairly rare, however, and can take years to get a satisfactory resolution, if you can get one at all.
Remember, we are just talking about raw numbers here to give you an idea of what is currently happening in the SSA’s disability system these days. Contact the attorneys at the Bond & Botes office nearest you for a free consultation of your situation.