Disability applications can be hard and here's why

A statement was recently made on a health forum: "I really tried to be thorough on my disability application and it just seems unfair that they have to make the process so hard".

The poster didn't elaborate so it was difficult to know exactly what they meant by the process being so hard. However, it wouldn't be hard to make a guess, or through a handful of guesses arrive at their chief complaint.

So, what is so hard about filing for disability? Here's a short list I've compiled.

1. The process takes a long time. A long time at the disability application level, a long time at the request for reconsideration level, and a long time at the hearing level. None of which makes anything easier for an individual (or their family) who has physical or mental problems and cannot work at a level that earns the equivalent of substantial gainful activity.

2. The great majority of claims are denied at the application level. Yes, this happens despite the fact that more than half of all claimants who appeal all the way to a disability hearing get approved. If SSA is going to approve 50 percent of the claimants they initially denied for benefits in the first place, then why make them go through the ordeal at all. Some would argue that this is a cost cutting mechanism. I cannot tell you how many individuals I have personally encountered over the years who informed me that that they had previously filed for disability, got denied, and then chose to give up on their claim (big mistake--you should always always appeal). Luckily, these individuals decided to file again at some point. But...what about all the people who give up and never try again.

The federal government saves a lot of money on these individuals.

3. You can never seem to get answers to basic questions about how the Social Security Disability system works. This is actually this site because I realized that claimants often had very basic questions that they weren't getting answers to. Why is it so hard to get answers? Here's my theory. Claimants often pose their questions to the individuals who take their disability claims. These indivduals are CRs, or claims reps. They work at social security field offices and they process disability claims. However, and this is an important distinction, they don't actually make the medical decision on an SSD or SSI case. In fact, they typically know almost NOTHING about how the disability process works.

Why? Because it's not their job to know. The job of rendering a decision on a disability case is the job of a disability examiner (which I used to be). However, disability examiners are not front-line contact personnel. In fact, if you file a claim you may never speak to your examiner (though very often you will since they usually need to get information about your medical sources, work history, or activities of daily living).

Why is filing for disability so hard? These are just a few reasons. There are a lot more, and perhaps those will be the subject of a later post.

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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