Social Security Disability Resource Center

Overview | How to Qualify | Applications
Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
Mental Disability | What is a disability? | Tips
SSI Benefits | How to Win | Disability Awards
Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

What is a Social Security Disability Denial based on?

There are plenty of misconceptions as to why denials on social security disability and SSI claims happen. To some extent, this may be due to the wording of notices of denial, which are largely template-assembled letters (meaning that if you lined up ten "notices of disapproved claim" from ten separate claimants, the letters would tend to look very much the same).

Claimants will often assume that one of a variety of factors may have been responsible for why they were denied on their disability application or appeal for disability benefits.

But, in every single case, a denial happens because the claimant, through the information presented in their medical records, has failed to prove that they have an inability to work at a substantial and gainful level and that this inability will last for at least one full year.

This is basically the social security administration definition of disability: that, to qualify for disability, a condition, or set of conditions (which may be physical, mental, or a combination of either) must be all of the following:

A) Severe

B) Severe enough to make it impossible for the claimant to engage in work activity at what is considered to be a substantial and gainful level


C) Severe enough to last at least a year.

Translation: to meet the Social security definition of disability, a claimant's overall condition must result in enough physical and/or mental limitations that they cannot be able to work for a full year while earning a substantial and gainful income (which is defined here: SGA, substantial activity level).

This includes, of course, the job that they last did, any work that they have done previously in the last fifteen years (their relevant past work), as well as any job that their skills and training might qualify them for and which their age and various restrictions might not disqualify them for.

Denials on disability applications and denials on disability appeals, therefore, occur because either--

1. The claimant's rated limitations, or residual functional capacity (measured on something known as a residual functional capacity form, which is completed by a disability examiner and the examiner's unit medical consultant at DDS, or disability determination services) is not enough to rule out their ability to go back to their former job or to do some type of other work. OR

2. The claimant has managed to return to work activity for which they earn a substantial and gainful wage while their disability application or disability appeal was pending.

Most claimants and potential claimants will assume that the outcome of a disability case will simply boil down to the information that may be found in the medical records. However, claims are as much focused on the claimant's work history as on the medical history.

Therefore, the claimant's ability to engage in work activity, as well as the perception of the ability to engage in (or return to) work activity (while earning a substantial and gainful income) can determine whether or not a disability claim is approved or denied.

  • 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

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    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

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    Related pages:

    How to Appeal a disability claim denial from Social Security
    Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
    What is a Social Security Disability Denial based on?
    Are there ways to avoid being denied for SSI or social security disability?
    What does a Disability Denial Letter from Social Security say?
    Reconsideration of a Social Security Disability denial- what does it involve?
    What to do if you receive notification of a Social Security Disability or SSI claim denial
    If you receive a Social Security Disability Denial quickly does that mean the case is weak?
    What happens if my SSI or Social Security Disability Application is denied?
    Social Security Disability Denied The Reasons Why (medical denials)
    Letter showing why I was denied for disability
    How long does it take to get SSI Disability Benefits?
    If you apply for disability in in Colorado
    Getting a Disability Lawyer in Colorado

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

    Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
    How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
    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?
    How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
    How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
    Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
    Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria