Contrary to popular belief, getting disability benefits is a difficult process

Oct 20 2014

One mistake or lack of proper documentation can lead to a rejection

There has been a lot of recent news regarding the state of America’s Social Security disability system. For example, a quick online search reveals that SSDI will become “insolvent” in 2016. Many articles claim that SSDI discourages work by paying people to lie around who would otherwise find jobs. Doctors and applicants who commit fraud to secure benefits repeatedly pop up in the news. Combined, it can seem that obtaining disability benefits is just a matter of checking a few boxes on a form and waiting for a check to arrive, whether the applicant is disabled or not.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that more people are on Social Security disability than at any time in America’s history. Applications for SSDI have increased 25 percent since 2007, according to Social Security Administration data. However, this increase isn’t due to lax eligibility standards. Rather, the increase in applications is attributable to demographics, as baby boomers become ill or disabled and can no longer work.

It is also true that the SSDI fund is projected to operate at a loss in as little as two years. However, the SSA old-age fund is still operating at a profit, and is projected to do so for decades. Funds from that program may be used to cover costs of a disability. And at any time Congress could change the law to make SSDI operate at a profit if it becomes necessary to do so in a couple of years.

In sum, blanket statements of SSDI’s insolvency or the claim that benefits will have to be greatly reduced in the near future are misleading. The idea that the majority of SSDI beneficiaries are out for a free lunch or “faking it” is not true.

Strict eligibility for SSDI benefits

Less well known is the fact that a significant majority of first-time applicants for SSDI benefits are rejected. The initial appeal for a rejection, known as reconsideration, is even harder to overcome, with an 85 percent rejection rate.

In order to qualify for SSDI, an applicant must be unable to work because of a medically recognized disability that prevents that person from obtaining any employment whatsoever. The disability must be expected to last longer than one year or end in death. In addition, the applicant must have worked for a certain amount of time to qualify to receive benefits.

An SSDI benefits attorney can help

Fortunately, the difficulty in obtaining benefits initially is not the end of the story. Often, initial applications are rejected because a person applied on his or her own and did not include enough documentation or incorrectly filed the application.

Also, even after a reconsideration is denied, the applicant has the right to appeal and be heard before an administrative law judge. At the hearing, the judge will look at evidence of an applicant’s disability. The success rate on appeal, when an applicant is represented by an attorney, is much higher than when a person attempts to claim SSDI benefits on his or her own.

Disabled people who are unable to work should therefore contact the experienced SSDI attorneys at Alverson & O’Brien, PC, to discuss their situation and legal options moving forward. While it is tough to get rich on SSDI benefits, they do provide someone living with a disability the opportunity to pay for basic necessities and focus on overcoming a disability.

Keywords: SSDI, appeals, initial application, disability.