Award and denial rates at the Milwaukee hearing office

Here is a sample from the spreadsheet adapted from SSA data, showing all of the Milwaukee Wisconsin ALJ’s with decisions at the time SSA published its data (for 9-29-12 thru 9-27-13). These data suggest that there is no meaningful inter-rater reliability across judges.

Because of this unreliability in decision making across ALJs, I have argued for a long time that the Social Security adjudication program is no more reliable than a flip of a coin.  In short, SSA's adjudication system is not fair because it is not reliable.  That is no longer a unique idea.


From the Editorial at the Chicago Tribune:

Judicial performance statistics show wide disparities in the awarding of benefits. You can run into Scrooge or Santa Claus, depending on where you are. In the last six months of 2013, judges in Illinois approved 44 percent of their cases, roughly even with the national average of 43 percent. But judges in the Evanston office approved 62 percent while those in Peoria approved 38 percent.

The SSA has pledged to follow up on suspicious patterns. If a judge is approving or rejecting practically every application, or is moving so many applications that it's clear they're not getting enough scrutiny, the judge should be required to justify his record.

 The rancid abuse of Social Security disability program   Editorial

The argument from the Tribune that there is not enough oversight of SSA judges is not quite right.  One of the best ways to evaluate how well an ALJ is doing is to see how many times he or she has been reversed by a District Court or the Appeals Council and to read the remand orders.   There is plenty of oversight by federal courts and SSA, but SSA keeps the results from the general public.  District Court orders reversing an ALJ's decision rarely give the ALJ's name.  SSA never releases data about its specific ALJ reversals by the Appeals Council, and SSA will not release data showing District Court reversals by ALJ.  How about it SSA, isn't it time to release those data to the public?


I put SSA's September 2013 ALJ disposition data in a spreadsheet with calculations showing the percentages of favorable and unfavorable decisions.  But that does not tell us how many times each ALJ had been reversed. It's time for SSA to tell the public the entire story about each ALJ.

Here are SSA's data:

You can download my spreadsheets here and see what your chances are of winning your case before you go to your hearing.  Good luck!

Open Document format

Microsoft XLS format


This posting was updated on January 16, 2014






Some kinds of disability fraud happen every day.  For example:


On the other hand, some kinds of alleged disability fraud take on special significance:





James Publishing has made an excerpt from my book available for free.  Take a look.  This is just a small part of what the entire two volume set offers!

– 79 pages
– Sample cross-examination questions and letters
– Instantly accessible via a link to download a Microsoft Word document




by David F. Traver

79 pages

Published 7/13












"WASHINGTON—The Social Security Administration, smarting from recent scandals, this weekend is set to tighten its grip on 1,500 administrative law judges to ensure that disability benefits are awarded consistently and to rein in fraud in the program.

The agency is rewriting the job descriptions of its judicial corps, allowing officials more latitude to crack down on judges who are awarding disability benefits outside the norm.

Many judges have operated as if they were independent of the agency and awarded or denied benefits based on their own judgments. A few weeks ago, the SSA notified the judges of the changes.

The job descriptions will no longer include the words "complete individual independence," and will also clarify that the judges are "subject to the supervision and management" of other agency officials, according to a draft reviewed by The Wall Street Journal."

Government Pulls in Reins On Disability Judges -

Is your ALJ an "outlier" that will deny or pay your case?  Check the data here.




When we applied for health insurance under ObamaCare the website told us that we had not changed Nellie's name on her SSN after the adoption.  We could still sign up for insurance, which we did. But we had until February 14, 2014 to fix the problem or Nellie would lose coverage.  We went to the SSA office and easily made the correction. So this morning, I went to and uploaded her passport and new Social Security card. It was fast and easy, to use the site to compare plans and buy insurance, and the document upload was flawless.

We are all signed up and we paid our first month's premium using I'm a happy customer of Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative in S.E. Wisconsin.  Have you signed up?

 See also: