Alternative Approaches to Judicial Review of Social Security Disability Cases, A Report to the Board, March 2002

Jeffrey Lubbers, American University Washington College of Law
Paul Verkuil


For many years, Congress has had various bills before it to create alternatives to the current practice of Article III review (in district courts) of Social Security disability cases. This report, prepared initially for the Social Security Advisory Board, reviews the various legislative proposals and statutory alternatives such as the Veterans Administration administrative/judicial review structure. It concludes that, on balance, review before an Article I court (with Court of Appeals review limited to purely legal issues) has numerous advantages over the present system. These advantages include improvements in the accuracy and consistency of results (the federal district courts have vastly divergent reversal rates) and in the creation of a regulatory feedback loop that would allow the SSA and its ALJs to learn why cases get reversed or remanded in the first place. The report disfavors the alternative of Article III review in a specialized federal court of appeals.