Understanding Disability Decisions

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A Breakdown of the 2022 Workload Data & what that might mean for 2023

Today, we’re going to dive into a fascinating topic – disability decisions. Don’t worry if it sounds a bit complex; we’ll break it down so it’s easy to understand.

What’s the Big Picture?
We’re looking at a document from the SSA, which stands for the Social Security Administration. They’re the folks who help out when someone can’t work because of a disability. The document we’re exploring is all about their decisions in 2022, so we may anticipate what’s to come in 2023.

The Stages of Decision Making
When someone in Colorado, like elsewhere in the U.S., applies for disability benefits, their application goes through various stages. Each stage is like a new level in a video game, with potential outcomes being approval, denial, or remand for further review.

Level 1: The Starting Point
This is the initial application stage. In 2022, the SSA made 1,765,032 decisions at this level nationwide, with 62% denials and 38% approvals. More often than not, applicants heard ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’ at this stage.

Level 2: The Second Chance
Those denied can request a reconsideration, with 459,925 such reevaluations taking place in 2022. Unfortunately, the odds were stiffer here, with 85% denials and only 15% approvals.

Level 3: The Judge Steps In
Next up is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. In 2022, 235,462 such hearings took place across the U.S., with outcomes being 51% approvals, 39% denials, and 11% dismissed outright.

Level 4: The Appeals Council
The fourth stage is the Appeals Council, which in 2022 made 54,236 decisions. Here, 84% were denied, 12% remanded, 3% were dismissed, and only 1% were allowed, but in the eyes of many Coloradans and others, a remand at this stage is often viewed as a win, given that it’s a necessary step or “necessary evil” before being allowed to progress to the Federal Court.

Level 5: The Final Frontier – Federal Court
Finally, if all other levels fail, an applicant from Colorado or any other state can escalate their case to Federal Court. In 2022, 21,297 such cases were reviewed nationwide. The statistics appear challenging, with 37% denials, 4% dismissals, and 1% approvals, but considering the 58% remands (also seen as wins), the Federal Court’s outcomes are somewhat more favorable than they initially seem.

And that’s the journey of a disability application, from its initial stage to the Federal Court. But remember, every case is unique, and these numbers are just averages from 2022.

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