The Social Security administrative law system is probably the largest adjudicatory system in the world. Each year, Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) decide hundreds of thousands of claims, the vast majority of which concern whether an individual applicant meets the disability standards for receiving benefits under one of two related programs: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.
The nature of Social Security hearings is sui generis. Claimants may but need not be represented by counsel, although most claimants are. The Social Security ALJ who considers the claim is an attorney, but there is no separate government attorney whose job is to advocate that the claimant does not meet the relevant standards. The Supreme Court has referred to Social Security hearings as nonadversarial, although that characterization may often be more aspirational than accurate.
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