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

Can you be approved for disability without having to go to a hearing?

You can be approved for disability without having to go to a hearing. The disability hearing is the third level of the Social Security Disability process, and while a fairly large percentage of disability applicants must go to a hearing to be approved for disability, it is certainly not the rule. In fact, approximately thirty percent of claimants who file for disability will be approved on their initial claim and will never see a hearing office or an administrative law judge.

The flip side of this, of course, is that most claimants will need to go to a hearing, and will increase the chances of winning with good disability attorney representation.

The odds of being approved for disability without a hearing

Prior to a disability hearing, a disabled individual may be approved for disability at their initial disability claim or during their reconsideration appeal (the reconsideration is the first appeal). In fact, you have a fairly good chance of being approved for disability benefits prior to a disability hearing.

Though the statistics vary considerably by state, national Social Security approval rates show that approximately that about a third of all disability applicants are approved for disability benefits at their initial disability claim, while another ten to fifteen percent are approved on a reconsideration appeal. Bear in mind, however, that this still means that seventy of claims will be denied at the disability application level and that the odds of being approved on the first Social Security appeal—the request for reconsideration—are fairly low.

Improving the odds of approval when appealing

If you want your disability claim to have a better chance of being approved at your initial disability claim or at your request for reconsideration appeal there are a few things you can do. To improve your chances of approval, you should, if at all possible, have your own medical treatment sources rather than rely on the social security administration to send you to a medical exam (referred to as a consultative exam).

Note: Consultative exams are generally scheduled by a disability examiner when a claimant has not been seen by a doctor for more than three months. The exams are scheduled because SSA actually requires that recent, or current, medical evidence be available in the claimant’s file before they can be determined disabled and awarded disability benefits.

Social Security prefers to have a twelve month medical history that contains both past and current (treatment within the past ninety days) medical treatment records to make their medical determinations.

If you can get your treating doctor to complete a statement that includes your diagnosis, prognosis, response to treatment, a description of your limitations and an opinion as to your ability to work, your chance of being approved for disability may dramatically improve. This statement is not equivalent to a short hand-written note from the treating physician and is often referred to as an RFC form or medical source statement.

Social Security guidelines require disability examiners to give heavy weight to the opinions of treating physicians if their opinion is substantiated by objective medical evidence. However, having said this, and speaking as a former disability examiner, I should point out that disability examiners often disregard the opinion of a claimant’s treating physician. Which is unfortunate, but often the case.

At a social security hearing, on the other hand, a disability judge, or ALJ (administrative law judge) will be much more likely to take the doctor’s qualified opinion into account and let it influence the outcome of the case. This is provided, of course, that the doctor is a “treating physician”, meaning a doctor who has a history of providing treatment to a patient versus a doctor that a patient has only seen once or twice (such as would be the case involving a quick visit to an urgent care).

When your disability file is lacking in information

If the disability examiner does not have enough current information in the file after gathering records from all the treatment sources listed on the disability application, the disability claim may be decided on the basis of a consultative examination.

Consultative examinations are status examinations performed by doctors or medical professionals (psychologists would be included when the CE, or consultative exam, involves mental testing) paid for by Social Security. Generally, these short examinations do not lead to an approval for disability except in disability cases that involve the most severe conditions.

The importance of describing your work history properly

You should also describe your past jobs thoroughly. Through my experience as a Social Security Disability examiner, I found that most disability applicants understate the demands of their employment. Social Security uses a sequential evaluation process based on functional ability rather than specific conditions. In order to be approved for disability you must have a severe impairment (it can be a physical or mental impairment) that prevents you from doing your past work.

This is the reason it is important for you to give a thorough description of your past work as your performed it. If the disability examiner finds that you cannot perform any of your past work they can move to last step of their sequential evaluation process. The last step is an evaluation to determine if you are able to perform other kinds of work with your residual functional capacity (what you are able to do in spite of the limitations of your disabling conditions), education, age, and the transferability of your job skills. If you are found unable to do your past work or any other kind of work, your disability claim may be approved through a medical vocational allowance.

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

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

Will a Social Security Judge give You an Immediate Decision at the Disability Hearing?
Basic Facts about the Administrative Law Judge Social Security Disability Hearing
Are the Chances of Winning Disability Benefits Higher at a Social Security Hearing with a Judge?
Winning at a Social Security Disability Hearing
Social Security Disability Hearings - what to expect
What happens when you go to a Social Security Disability hearing?
Preparing for a Disability Hearing to Win Social Security or SSI Benefits
Presenting evidence at a Social Security Disability or SSI hearing
How Long Does It Take To Get The Results Of A Disability Hearing?
Do Most People Have To Go To A Disability Hearing in order to Get Approved For Disability?
Can you be approved for disability without having to go to a hearing?
Waiting for a Hearing to be Scheduled before an ALJ, Administrative Law Judge
Vocational expert at a disability hearing - what is this?
Social Security Disability Hearings - What is the ALJ
Denied at disability hearing and filed appeal with appeals council
Qualifying for disability in California
How do I apply for disability in Benefits in California
Applying for Disability in California

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

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?

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.