Social Security disability benefits are essential for millions of Americans who can’t work because of a disability. Unfortunately, navigating the system to get this critical financial assistance can be difficult at best and nearly impossible at worst.
Navigating a Social Security Disability Claim Can Be Daunting
Every year, over 2 million people apply for one of Social Security’s disability benefit programs. What is the national approval rate for initial applications? Today, it’s less than 38 percent. Those aren’t good odds.
There are a variety of reasons people get denied Social Security Disability. Unfortunately, once you’re denied, you must get on the merry-go-round of the multi-layered appeal process with Social Security to get them to reconsider their denial. In the meantime, you’re missing the essential benefits you need to pay your bills and take care of yourself and your family. Can you afford to wait?
Why Are Applicants Denied for Social Security Disability?
Why does such a disproportionate share of applicants get denied?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has stringent eligibility requirements for approval for disability benefits, but the most common reasons for denial fall into just a few categories.
- Insufficient medical evidence – One of the most common reasons for denial is that the SSA doesn’t agree that the applicant’s disability meets their criteria. This is usually because the applicant doesn’t have enough supporting evidence to prove they are disabled and unable to work. To be approved for disability benefits, medical records need to not only thoroughly document a disability but also reflect how it has interfered with that person’s ability to work. Medical records that don’t have a clear diagnosis are missing information or don’t include the doctor’s notes detailing how the condition has limited the applicant’s ability to work, which can result in a denial.
- The condition doesn’t qualify as a recognized disability by SSA – Even when an applicant has a condition that affects their ability to do the work they usually do, the SSA may still feel that they can perform other types of work. Social Security maintains a list of conditions that are considered “serious” enough that the applicant can’t work at all. If an applicant’s condition doesn’t fit neatly into one of those categories, SSA will need to decide if it is comparable to one of their approved conditions. If they don’t come to this conclusion, the claim will be denied.
- The applicant earns too much – If the applicant makes more than the threshold for “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), the claim will be denied. For 2023, that limit is $2.460 for blind individuals and $1,470 for non-blind individuals.
- The applicant’s work history isn’t recent or long enough to qualify – Applicants need a certain number of “work credits” to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. These are earned for every quarter of a year that the applicant works, and the dollar amount varies from year to year. Furthermore, the number of work credits needed to qualify for disability depends on the age the applicant becomes disabled. If an applicant doesn’t have enough work credits, their claim can be denied, even if their disability qualifies.
- The applicant has filed more than one application – Sometimes, an applicant will try to file another application in the hopes of being approved instead of pursuing the appeal process. This will result in an immediate denial.
Is there any doubt why so many people become disheartened by a denial after navigating this long and often convoluted process?
When is the Best Time to Hire a Social Security Attorney?
When should you hire a Social Security lawyer? The right answer is as soon as possible.
Getting the assistance of an experienced professional at the outset can help you avoid the pitfalls of the initial approval process. Once you are denied and become entangled in the SSDI appeal quagmire, it exponentially delays your ability to collect benefits. Each level of the appeals process can take an additional several months for a decision.
Even more importantly, a disability attorney understands the process and can maximize your chances of not only getting approved but also receiving better benefits than you would have otherwise.
Can a Social Security Disability Attorney Help After You’ve Been Denied?
If your application for Social Security disability benefits has been denied, you will need to go through the appeal process to try to convince the SSA to change its decision. The appeal process can be just as arduous as the initial application.
The appeal process has four levels. The second level is a hearing where you will appear before an administrative law judge to make your case for an appeal. At this point, the judge can reconsider your application and look at any new details and medical information that supports your claim. It is at this stage of the appeal process that most denials are overturned. Having a Social Security disability lawyer’s assistance during the appeal process can make all the difference, particularly at the hearing level.
How Can an SSDI Lawyer Help You Navigate the Claim Process?
Do you need an attorney to file a Social Security disability claim? No. But can it make a difference in whether you get approved or not? Absolutely!
Working with a Social Security lawyer can ensure that your claim is presented with the most reliable and comprehensive evidence of your disability possible. Your attorney can help by
- Fixing issues with your application, such as amending incorrect or incomplete information
- Improving your application by suggesting better or different sources of evidence to prove the disability
- Ensuring that the initial application or appeal paperwork is filed correctly and contains ample evidence of your disability or work history
- Ensuring that your medical records show a consistent narrative of how your disability limits or prevents you from working
- Ensuring that your work records and history fully demonstrate that you are eligible for benefits
- Helping you to get eyewitness or personal testimonies showing how your disability affects your life
When a disability prevents you from working and caring for yourself and your family, SSDI benefits are a critical lifeline. But, getting these essential benefits can feel overwhelming.
At Silver & Silver, our experienced Social Security lawyers can make all the difference in your approval by guiding you through the process and ensuring that your application is complete and concise or your appeal is fully supported. Call us at (610) 658-1900 or contact us through our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
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