Nationally, 67% of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are denied. These denials may be because of an incomplete application form, an insufficient work history, or a lack of medical evidence. Many of our clients come to us after they have received a denial letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) saying that their initial application has been denied and giving them information on how to appeal within the next 60 days if they disagree with the SSA’s decision.
Even though the majority of initial applications are denied, you should still try to avoid as many application mistakes as possible to increase your chance of first-time approval. In New Hampshire it takes about 11 months to schedule an appeal hearing, and the entire process can take up to two years, so avoiding these common mistakes will help to tip the odds of first-time approval in your favor.
1. An Incomplete Application
Lots of information is required for an SSDI application. You will need to provide detailed information about you and your family, your disability, and your work history. Names and dates of past employment; current medical providers, prescriptions, and tests; and employer information and employment dates for the last 15 years must all be filled in. If any blanks are left, your application will be denied.
2. Lack of Medical Evidence
SSDI is awarded to people who have become disabled to the point that they cannot work to support themselves, so your medical evidence must prove that your disability is so severe that it interferes with everyday activities (such as standing, sitting, walking, and lifting) and prohibits you from working. Being in too much pain to work is not sufficient evidence. You must have a diagnosed qualifying disability that is documented by a medical professional. While the SSA does have publicly available lists of qualifying disabilities for SSDI, the lists are not exclusive and your medical condition may still qualify even if it is not on one of the standard lists.
Once you have medical evidence (including a Residual Functional Capacity Assessment form) that you meet disability qualifications, your relevant medical records must be sent to Social Security. Be sure to follow up with Social Security to confirm that they have received all of your relevant medical records. Cases on appeal frequently reveal that important medical evidence was never received by the SSA.
3. Lack of Work History
Remember that SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance, and that the SSDI program is a government insurance program that you paid into through your FICA taxes deducted from your work paychecks. In order to collect SSDI, you must have worked long enough to earn the required Social Security credits. Generally, 40 work credits are required to have access to the SSDI program with half of those work credits being earned in the 10 years prior to your disability. For more specific information about the work qualifications for SSDI, read our blog here.
4. Work Income is Too High
Remember that the goal of Social Security Disability Insurance is to provide an income for those who are too disabled to work and support themselves, or what the SSA calls “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). The SSA does allow some part-time work though and sets income limits for how much a person can earn and still qualify for SSDI. As of 2022, an applicant can’t make more than $1,350 per month or $2,260 if they are blind (since the SSA considers blindness a unique disability which may require more assistance for basic survival). The allowed amount is regularly adjusted in response to the national average wage index.
5. Failure to Follow Instructions
Sometimes applications are denied because of the applicant’s failure to follow instructions. Those instructions may be requests from the SSA for more information or for the applicant to attend a required medical exam. Also, failure to follow a doctor’s treatment instructions will result in a denied application. By following your doctor’s treatment instructions, you prove that you have done all that you can to get well. If you have rejected treatment directions, then the SSA may assume that you could go back to work if you followed your doctor’s instructions, so your request will be denied.
6. Re-applying With the Same Information
Sometimes when a person receives a SSDI denial letter, rather than appeal the decision, they decide to just reapply. The chances of being approved are much higher on appeal, and if the information on your application hasn’t changed, then you will just be denied again. It is to your advantage if you’ve been denied to contact a Social Security attorney who can help you collect additional important information and walk you through the appeals process.
Give Us a Call
More than one million Americans are currently waiting for their appeals hearing after being initially denied for Social Security Disability benefits. Although an attorney’s assistance in submitting your SSDI application only slightly increases your chances of success, having a Social Security lawyer to assist you during the appeals process more than doubles your chance of a successful appeal. Come talk to us at Ward Law Group, LLC about how we can help your chance of success in getting you the compensation that you need.