Things are about to get interesting at the Dover Delaware Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The Delaware News Journal is running a teaser on its website indicating that an article titled “Social Insecurity: Are Judges Fair?” will run in the Sunday, November 22, 2009 edition (*UPDATE* article posted: Social Security Claims Denied More Often in Delaware). The teaser is suggesting that residents in Delaware are facing tougher Administrative Law Judges than most of the Country.
The article comes as no surprise to me or the Social Security Administration. The News Journal has been working on this expose for over 2 years now, and the Inspector General’s office also has conducted an investigation of this office based on complaints addressed by a local Congressman. Various issues regarding Administrative Law Judges in Dover have also been addressed with the National Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Office Disability Adjudication and Review and the Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge for the Third Circuit.
The disturbing statistics that have already been made available on the News Journal’s website reveal that 3 out of 4 of the Administrative Law Judges at the Dover Delaware Office of Disability Adjudication and Review deny at least 56% of the claims that they decide. Between 2005 and 2008, the Dover Delaware Hearing Office had the 8th worst approval rate in the United States, and in 2008 Dover had the 4th worst approval rate. (Which suggest that the complaints may actually be making the problems worse.)
The scary part is that the statistics that have been published on the News Journal website do not fully explain the severity of the problem. I obtained additional statistics from the Social Security Administration that broke down the decisions for fiscal year 2008 by the age of the claimants. One of the Judges in the Dover hearing office actually denied 68.9% of individuals age 18-49 in 2008. The national denial rate for the same age group was 32.5% and the regional denial rate was 32.7%.
Luckily my office has had a much better experience with the Dover Delaware Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in terms of approval rates for our clients. Personally during the same period (2005 to 2008), I had an approval rate of 71% overall with the Dover Hearing Office. Even with the Administrative Law Judge that denies the highest percentage of disability claims, I still had an approval rate of 54.1% during the entire period referenced in the article. I have achieved these rates based on gaining valuable experience of what it takes to prove disability even with Judges that have a higher standard of disability.
The question that is raised by the initial teaser of the News Journal article is one that many individuals that have been denied disability benefits in Delaware have been asking since the Dover Delaware Office of Disability Adjudication and Review initially opened in 2004, Can I get a fair Social Security Disability hearing in Delaware? Although the answer is unclear, it remains to be seen whether the attention given to these issues by the News Journal article will help resolve the inequities faced by Delaware Residents.
This article was written by Steven Butler. Steven is a partner at Linarducci & Butler, PA and his practice is limited to Social Security Disability/SSI claims. Steven offers free initial consultations for Social Security Disability/SSI claims to residents of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To schedule a consultation with Steven, please use the Linarducci & Butler Contact Form or call 302-613-0707 to schedule an appointment.