Understanding Recent SSD Stats: Part II: The Drop in SSD Cases Pending Review by an ALJ – Winchester, TN

August 6th, 2018 by Attorney John Colvin

Explaining the Drop of SSD Cases Pending Review

An interesting phenomenon is happening around the country, not just in Tennessee, in terms of pending social security disability (SSD) cases. Before discussing the situation, it’s important to understand the initial three stages of filing a SSD claim.

The first stage usually begins when the disabled person or someone on his or her behalf fills out an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Roughly one-quarter to one-third of all claims are accepted at this point (the former is more consistent with Tennessee statistics); the vast majority of claims are denied.

The second stage, reconsideration of a denied claim, may end in the claim being accepted. More likely, though, the claim will end up in the third stage, a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). For numerous years, this third stage took quite a long time to get through the courts because so many cases were waiting to be heard.

Now, the SSA has announced that the number of SSD cases pending review by an ALJ has dropped significantly. Does this mean that more claims are being accepted in the first two stages of SSD application? Or that fewer people feel the need to apply for SSD?

Neither suggestion is the underlying cause of the situation.

Why SSD Cases Pending Have Fallen to New Lows

To understand the changes in pending SSD cases, we have to go back in time more than a decade.

After 2007’s Great Recession, a large number of people applied for SSD claims. The applicant pool continued to rise year after year, peaking only recently. What happened? Basically, the courts caught up with all the pending SSDs cases by streamlining systems and hiring new ALJs.

Sadly, deaths among those waiting for hearings also reduced the number of people awaiting SSD claim review. As the SSA notes, by 2016, 9,714 people–including 27 children–died while waiting for an ALJ to reconsider their claims. In other words, these individuals never had the opportunity to get the benefits of SSD. Could it have made a difference in their lives?


One piece of research published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2008 showed a direct correlation between the stresses of living in poverty (and unhealthy behaviors often associated with a low socioeconomic lifestyle, like inactivity) and of dying sooner than financially secure counterparts. Knowing this, we can surmise that waiting for an SSD case to be heard could conceivably aggravate existing health and emotional issues, not to mention increase stress levels.

Taking Advantage of Fewer Pending SSD Cases

At this point, the flow of SSD cases to be seen by ALJs is on the downswing. Therefore, it’s a good time for applicants who have been denied second-stage reconsideration to work with a legal professional. Unlike 10 years ago, they’re likely to have a shorter wait time, which means they can get SSD funds faster if they are approved.

If you’ve been denied, we can help you pursue benefits. At the law offices of John R. Colvin, we routinely offer free consultations on SSD claim matters. Take advantage of a free consultation with an experienced SDD attorney and learn more about your options and the SSD appeals process by calling our office today at 931-962-1044.

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