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.

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.

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability in North Carolina

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Tips to Prepare for Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI

Advice to Win SSD and SSI Benefit Claims

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

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?

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

Related pages:

Disability for Knee and Joint pain in North Carolina
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