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How often are Social Security disability applications denied?

A disability that prevents you from doing the job you’ve always had can be challenging, both emotionally and financially. Not being sure how you’ll get by can add more stress to an already stressful time. So you turn to Social Security disability benefits, hoping it will help.

You fill out an application, submit it to the Social Security Administration (SSA), then get a letter in the mail: denied. Your heart sinks. But not only is this a fairly common outcome for an initial application, there are ways to get the decision reviewed and reconsidered.

What the numbers show

Don’t be discouraged by a rejected initial application – that’s what happens more often than not. In fact, only about 30% of those first applications are successful. Meaning about 70% of them are rejected.

The reasons for being denied can vary. It might be a guidelines problem, such as making too much money (the 2019 maximum is $1,220 a month), or a disability not being considered long-term (meaning it isn’t expected to last at least 12 months). A failed application could also be the result of a paperwork issue – not including sufficient records to prove your disability, for example, or maybe your phone number is incorrect and the SSA can not reach you.

How to appeal a denied application

After an initial rejection, you may want to consider using an attorney to help with the reconsideration and appeals processes. They can help make sure your claim includes everything it needs and meets all deadlines. Whether you have a lawyer or not, the appeals process is the same.

The first step is reconsideration, which you have to ask for within 60 days of receiving the initial decision letter. The SSA will review your application, including any new evidence you want to include, and once again make a determination.

If reconsideration also results in a rejection, you can ask for an administrative hearing. It is done in-person or via video conferencing, and gives you a chance to make your case in front of a judge. You can also use witnesses or medical experts to support your disability claim and clarify any issues the SSA may have.

A rejection from the administrative hearing means you can ask for a review from an Appeals Council that will review your case. If that also fails, you can consider filing a lawsuit in a federal district court.

While a denial on your first application is not ideal, it is also not reason to panic. With the right plan and proper help, it may be possible to get a decision in your favor during the appeals process.

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