How many Social Security Disability and SSI claimants do not file an appeal?

It's fairly common knowledge that a significant percentage of Social Security Disability and SSI disability claimants do not file an appeal following a denial. In my former capacity as a disability examiner this was often verified by how many "uniques" an individual had (a cumulative number showing the number of new claims filed); in other words, how many times a person had opted not to appeal but rather to file a brand new disability application. However, I probably shouldn't say "opted" because, though it may sound strange, too many claimants are not aware of the fact that they can appeal.

Related: Filing a disability appeal is always to your advantage

Working in claimant representation, of course, only added verification to what I had learned as an examiner: an extraordinary number of claimants who were denied seemed to: 1) forego pursuing their claim any further, 2) submitted appeals but too late for them to be accepted by SSA, or 3) made the incorrect assumption that appeals and new applications were one and the same.

So, how many individuals who file for disability and get denied choose not to appeal (the word "choose" is used loosely since, as was mentioned, a number of claimants are simply not aware of their appeal rights)? According to the lead attorney for one of the nation's largest representation firms, it may be as much as two-thirds. Which, to me, is both astounding and yet not unexpected.

Who's to blame for this, assuming blame is even appropriate? Well, I doubt that you can blame disability claimants themselves. Applying for Social Security Disability or ssi is an inherently depressing and gut-wrenching experience and, ultimately, what claimants know about the system tends to be based on what social security administration employees have told them.

In my own opinion, the failure of so many disability claimants to file the appeals to which they are entitled is a failure of the social security administration to properly inform claimants of their rights.

It's been joked about more than once that if every disability claimant who was denied filed the appeal they were entitled to, the Social Security Disability and ssi system would grind to a halt. And more cynical minds have been of the opinion that the federal government counts on this to S-A-V-E M-O-N-EY.

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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