What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
Answers to questions about SSD and SSI disability
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
Are the Chances of Winning Disability Benefits Higher at a Social Security Hearing with a Judge?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
At the first two levels of the disability system, there is often little a claimant can do to avoid being denied for SSD (social security disability) or SSI (supplemental security income disability) benefits. This is because those levels of the system--the disability application and reconsideration appeal--are decided by disability examiners. Disability examiners in every single state have higher denial rates than administrative law judges (who issue decisions at disability hearings).
Why is this the case? There are several possible reasons. First of all, the process that is used by disability examiners does not allow claimants to meet the decision-maker (the disability examiner in this case) and present an argument in favor of their case. Because disability examiners operate in a closed system, claimants do not have the opportunity to know anything of any real importance about the processing of their case until they have received a notice of decision.
In contrast to this, claimants who go to disability hearings have the opportunity (directly, or through their appointed disability lawyer) to:
A) Review their file;
B) Add medical evidence to their file;
C) Check to ensure that no medical records are missing from the file (a common complaint of applicants who have received a notice of denial from a disability examiner is that crucial medical records are either missing from the file or were never gathered by the examiner, despite the fact that the claimant listed a specific treatment source at the time of filing the disability application).
D) Take questions from the decision-maker which may be used to clarify key points regarding the claimant's medical history or work history.
The disability hearing stage is also distinctly different in that administrative law judges prefer to have available to them the opinion of the claimant's own physician. It is for this reason that competent disability attorneys will usually try to obtain a detailed medical source statement from a claimant's treating physician as this can carry substantial weight at a hearing.
Disability examiners, on the other hand, tend not to give proper consideration to the opinion of a claimant's own doctor or doctors. This may be due, in part, because disability examiners use a process that requires them to have their own decisions reviewed by a medical doctor who works in their processing unit (a unit medical consultant). This insular system may produce a tendency to disregard the opinion of the doctor who has actually treated the patient in favor of a doctor (who works with the disability examiner) who has never treated the patient and has never even met the patient.
However, to answer the question with which we started, yes, the chances of winning disability benefits at a hearing held by a judge are substantially higher. To get to a disability hearing, however, a claimant must first be denied on an application for disability and then on a reconsideration appeal.
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Topics and Questions
SSD and SSI are Federal Programs
The title II Social Security Disability and title 16 SSI Disability programs operate under federal guidelines and, therefore, the program requirements--medical and non-medical--apply to all states:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Recent approval and denial statistics for various states can be viewed here:
Social Security Disability, SSI Approval and Denial Statistics by state
Special Section: Disability Lawyers and unnecessary claim denials