Those us familiar with the workings of the Social Security Disability program have noticed, nationwide, a severe decline in the allowance rate – particularly at the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) level of review.
Our perception has been that mental and psychological cases aren’t being awarded as much as they used to be in the past – nor are cases alleging intellectual disability (low IQ). The Social Security Administration (SSA) has now released data which describes the decline.
In 2010, 218,862 disability insurance cases were awarded for mental illnesses. In 2014, only 123,676 mental cases were awarded. This is a decline of nearly 44%.
In 2010, the number of claims awarded for intellectual disability was 18,867. In 2014, only 9,738 cases were awarded for intellectual disability. This is a decline of roughly 48%.
Speaking from my professional experience as a disability lawyer, I’ve seen cases of intellectual disability denied for such simple reasons as the claimant has the mental capacity to talk to his mother on the phone, or watch a Christmas parade with his father, or ride a bus, or ride in the car (with someone else driving!), or make a sandwich, or watch TV.
There’s no evidence that the number of applications for these conditions has declined. Also, there’s been no significant regulatory change to explain the decrease in awards. The SSA is simply training the ALJs to be more exacting about how compelling the evidence must be.
Claim of mental illness are necessarily subjective. There’s no way you can put a meter on somebody and determine how mentally impaired they are. It looks like the agency has simply instructed the judges to resolve all doubts against the claimants, if there claim is for a mental disability. This has been particularly damaging to younger individuals with mental disabilities.
We can only hope the agency will reverse this trend.
If you or a loved one has a mental condition that makes it impossible to work, contact our office for help . We’ll start you out with a free consultation to determine if you have a Social Security Disability claim.