Most of the clients we work with call us after their Social Security disability claim has been denied. That’s no surprise. While Social Security doesn’t deny everyone the first time they apply; they do deny approximately 65% of initial claims.
Applying Too Early
There are several reasons initial applications are denied. The first is that oftentimes, individuals prematurely apply for disability.
Remember that Social Security considers you disabled if:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- They decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
In many cases, claimants apply before they have demonstrated that they have tried to do other work and before they have solid evidence proving that the disability has lasted or will last for at least one year.
Insufficient Work Credits
Another common reason SSA denies initial applications is because claimants often apply without sufficient work credits.
Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount needed for a work credit changes from year to year. In 2020, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,410 in wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $5,640, you’ve earned your four credits for the year.
The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled.
Working Without an Attorney
According to a DisabilitySecrets.com survey, readers who had a lawyer’s help in the process were nearly twice as likely to be approved for benefits as compared to those who didn’t hire a lawyer.
At the initial application level, a qualified disability lawyer will know SSA’s rules and regulations in and out. They can help advise potential claimants as to best next steps and explain those rules to them prior to applying.
Experienced disability attorneys can help in several ways, including:
- gathering the proper medical evidence
- recognizing when medical records need updating or more evidence is needed
- recognizing when it would help to have a medical expert testify at a hearing, and knowing where to find appropriate experts
- preparing you for questioning at the hearing
- anticipating what the administrative law judge may focus on (based on the attorney’s familiarity with local judges who preside at Social Security disability hearings), and
- knowing how to cross-examine the vocational expert in order to strengthen your case.
In summary, it is a myth that Social Security denies all initial claims. However, they can and do deny most initial applications. Since most initial applications are denied due to the reasons stated above, we often advise clients to file initially and then once denied, to contact us to help them handle their appeal.
Perhaps the biggest mistake claimants make is failing to appeal the decision within SSA’s 60-day appeal window. If you have been denied, we encourage you to contact us today for a free evaluation of your claim.