Social Security Disability Lawsuits Reach Historic High in July 2020

The latest available data from the federal courts show that during July 2020 there were 2,500 new Social Security lawsuits filed in district court. Nearly all of the suits—more than 95 percent—sought review of the denial of disability as well as other benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. According to court information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, the number of new lawsuits is the highest recorded since TRAC's systematic tracking of litigation began in October 2007.

July's figures are up 10.0 percent over the previous month (June) when the number of civil filings of this type totaled 2,273. In May filings totaled just 1,675. Compared to a year ago, July filings were up 17.9 percent. The previous monthly high point was in August 2013 when new filings reach 2,008 cases—the only month prior to June and July of this year when lawsuits topped two thousand. See Table 1.

Table 1. Civil Filings
Number Latest Month 2,500
Percent Change from previous month 10.00%
Percent Change from 1 year ago 17.90%
Percent Change from 5 years ago 15.10%

The long term trend in civil filings for these matters going back five years is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of civil filings of this type recorded each month. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. One-year and five-year change comparisons are based upon the moving averages.

Figure 1. Civil Filings Over the Last Five Years
(Click for larger image)

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

Relative to population, the volume of civil matters of this type filed in federal district courts during July 2020 was 7.6 per every million persons in the United States. One year ago the relative number of filings was 4.7. Understandably, given the many differences among communities in the country, there is great variation in the per capita number of civil filings in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.

Table 2. Top Ten Districts (per one million people)
Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago
N. Y., W 63.6 177 1 2 6
Wash, E 39.3 64 2 1 3
Okla, E 25.4 19 3 3 1
Miss, N 22.5 25 4 5 68
Ark, W 21.8 30 5 4 2
Okla, N 20.6 22 6 8 4
Wash, W 16.2 96 7 11 10
Ind, N 14.2 37 8 12 19
N. Y., S 14.2 74 9 9 26
Okla, W 14.1 30 10 28 29
  • The Western District of New York (Buffalo)—with 63.6 civil filings as compared with 7.6 civil filings per one million people in the United States—was the most active during July 2020. The Western District of New York was ranked second a year ago, while it was ranked sixth five years ago.

  • The Eastern District of Washington (Spokane) ranked second. The Eastern District of Washington was ranked first a year ago, while it was ranked third five years ago.

  • The Eastern District of Oklahoma (Muskogee) now ranks third. The Eastern District of Oklahoma was also ranked third a year ago, while it was ranked first five years ago. The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of civil filings compared to one year ago—150.0 percent—was Western District of Oklahoma. Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth—735.4 percent—was the Northern District of Mississippi.

Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.