How many times will you be denied Social Security Disability or SSI before you are approved?

For many years, I've heard this particular piece of anecdotal wisdom being thrown about: "Well, you know, social security has to deny you a few times before they can approve you". And, of course, each time it's been said to me I've felt the need to comment as to how the system actually works.

However, I just read the same thing on a forum so I feel compelled to address the question again: Does the social security administration deny a disability claim a certain number of times before they approve it?

And the answer is (long drumroll)---NO. It is in no way, shape, or form a part of the process that a disability claim must be denied X number of times before it can be approved. In the forum I came across, there was general belief and agreement that three was the magic number; however, it just doesn't work that way.

Having said that, though, I can understand why people might come to such a conclusion of this sort, though. It's no state secret that most disability claims are denied on the application level (on average, about 70 percent). Likewise, it's commonly known that most first appeals are likewise denied (on average, about 81%).

However, no rule for a minimum number of mandatory denials exists. It's simply that the Social Security Disability system is, on its face, arduous and somewhat hostile to individuals who are pursuing disability benefits.

Can you win a disability claim on your first try if you have a very strong case? Yes. Can you lose a disability claim on your first try if you have a very strong case? Yes.

Unfortunately, it's often true that regardless of how strong your claim is, you may be initially denied and denied again on your first appeal. And, of course, it's due to ridiculous outcomes like this that disability representatives are often fairly busy and administrative law judges probably shake their heads in wonder at the truly ponderous decisions being made at DDS (disability determination services, the state agency that renders medical determinations for the social security administration).

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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