Oversight of Administrative Law Judge Decisional Quality

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Report Number: 
Report Type: 
Audit Report
Office Affiliation: 

A claimant can appeal an administrative law judge's (ALJ) decision to deny or dismiss a disability case. Claimants file these appeals through a request for review to SSA’s Appeals Council (AC) in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). If the AC grants a review of the case, it will issue a fully favorable, partially favorable, or unfavorable decision; or it may remand the case to an ALJ. If the AC does not grant a case review, the earlier decision remains unchanged.

ODAR tracks the AC’s decision on every appealed case and calculates a quality performance measure for each ALJ. The decision agree rate represents the extent to which the AC concludes the ALJ decisions were supported by substantial evidence and contained no error of law or abuse of discretion justifying a remand or reversal. At the time of our review, the national agree rate goal for ALJ decisions was 85 percent. The national dismissal agree rate goal for ALJ dismissals was 72 percent, but less than 6 percent of the AC workload related to dismissals.

We issued this report to review the actions SSA took to monitor and improve the quality of ALJ decisions using information from AC request for review actions.