Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Why does social security deny strong disability claims?

The fact is, SSA routinely denies exceptionally strong claims. As a disability examiner (former), I particularly recall one case in which an individual was denied at the disability claim application level. The DDS (disability determination services) physician who signed off on the case did so using the rationale that the victim's burns did not cause enough stricture (narrowing of tissue resulting in limitations in movement) to prevent a return to work activity.

But...the individual had suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 25 percent of the body, confined mainly to one side and the Director of the Hospital Burn Center had taken it upon himself to write a letter explaining that, with injuries so severe, the patient would not be able to return to work. In fact, the patient had very recently been released from the hospital, had gone into shock and renal failure, and then been re-admitted to the hospital for a long, extended period.

Very good disability claims are routinely denied by social security. That is without question. And the question then becomes "Why does social security deny strong disability claims?".

It has a lot to do with how the federal disability system is structured. Bad decisions are made at all levels of the system. However, they (bad decisions) tend to be made most often at the lower levels of the system, which would be the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels. These are the levels at which SSD and SSI claims are decided by disability examiners and the physicians and psychologists and psychiatrists who work with them as consultants.

Of course, it's not surprising that this occurs. Why? Well, all you have to do is consider how different the system operates at these levels in comparison to the hearing level.

1. Disability examiners are often pressured to make decisions on disability claims that conform to the decisional patterns of the disability determination services agency they work in. And very often that even includes the decisional patterns of their immediate supervisors. In other words, disability examiners are not exactly independent decision makers.

2. Disability examiners really do not give proper weight and consideration to the statements provided by a claimant's treating physician when such statements have been obtained or delivered.

3. The social security process at the lower levels of the system does not allow an opportunity for the claimant and his or her chosen representative to take an active part in the disability claims process.

At the hearing level, of course, things change considerably. Administrative law judges who rule on social security disability and SSI claims operate independently, tend to give proper consideration to the opinion of a claimant's treating physician, and, if a claimant is represented, will receive the efforts of the claimant's designated representative, either a disability attorney or a non-attorney representative.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

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    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

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    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved

    FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions

    The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration

    Resources on this site

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    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

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    Denied Twice For disability - What do you do?
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    How many times do you get denied before you get approved for disability?
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    Why are you denied the first time you are denied for disability?
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    These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

    How to file for disability, filing tips
    What to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits
    Applying for disability benefits, SSI and SSDI
    What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability?
    Will you get disability back pay?
    Social Security Disability And SSI Qualifications
    Permanent Disability Qualifications for SSD and SSI
    Social Security Disability SSI status
    Disability lawyer representation, finding lawyers
    Who will qualify for disability and what qualifying is based on
    Qualifications for Disability Benefits
    Important points about filing for disability
    How long does it take to get disability after applying?
    Am I Eligible For Social Security Disability?
    Who is eligible for SSI disability?
    How to get disability in Florida