How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Invisible Disabilities and decisions on claims for disability

Disability is an interesting concept in the sense that some physical and mental conditions are, in a relative sense, overt and visible, while other conditions, those that functionally limit individuals to the extent that they could be termed "disabled" and unable to work, are less visible. Sometimes, these conditions are referred to as invisible disabilities, simply because their effects and the limitations they impose are not so easily seen.

Unfortunately, a large segment of the nation seems burdened with the notion that, for an individual to be actually be disabled, they must, if they possess a physical impairment, be wheelchair bound; if they possess a mental impairment, they must be psychotic, have down syndrome, or have an intelligence quotient so low that they are incapable of living alone or engaing in a normal range of daily living activities.

This attitude, unfortunately, affects even disability examiners, the individuals who render decisions on Social Security Disability and SSI cases. As an examiner, I found it fairly common for fellow examiners to openly scoff at allegations (conditions that are listed on a disability application) such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, and fibromyalgia.

With attitudes like this, held by the individuals who actually review disability claims, is it always possible to receive a fair and impartial evaluation on a disability application? In my own opinion, the system is much more subjective than most people are aware. For example, if you were to send a case profile through several different units of a state disability processing agency, you might find, depending on the particulars of the case, that you received as many approvals as denials.

A more obvious example, of course, of the subjective nature of disability claim adjudication is the great difference in decisional outcomes between the lower levels (the initial claim and reconsideration levels) and the disability hearing level. In the disability application pool, seventy percent will be denied. In the pool of cases for which the first appeal (the reconsideration) has been filed, roughly eighty-five percent will be denied. Yet, from this combined pool of cases, for those claimants who choose to have a case decided by an administrative law judge, the chances of ultimately winning hover in the 50 percent range.

Without a doubt, outcomes change dramatically at different levels of the appeal system. But why is this? Do some claimants see a worsening of their medical condition? Yes, in some cases. And, in some instances, claimants simply age into an allowance (i.e. become old enough, while their claim is pending, to benefit from more favorable age-based vocational rules).

However, in most cases, neither factor is likely to account much for the huge difference in approval rates between the lower levels and the hearing level. Subjectivity is more likely the answer. Subjectivity and a system whose inherent qualities pave the way for individual unit supervisors (of a state disability processing agency) to impose their own subjective standards on the individual claims examiners who are attached to their units.

None of which would be a problem were it not for the fact that disability unit supervisors have a built-in resistance to issuing approvals in the form of quality assurance returns (cases that have been screened by QA units and returned to their originating units for errors---these cases typically tend to be cases that were marked for "approval" versus cases that were marked for "denial").

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

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Social Security Disability SSI definitions

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New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

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Related pages:

Decisions on Social Security Disability
How are decisions on disability claims made
Who Makes The Social Security Disability Decision, A Judge Or a Caseworker?
How long does the administrative law judge take to make a decision on a disability claim?
What kind of Final Decision can I receive on my Disability Application?
How do you file a Social Security reconsideration appeal?
How long for a Social Security reconsideration appeal decision?

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

Filing and applying for disability in Texas

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.