If you are unable to work due to a disability, you may be entitled to disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. If you have a long enough work history and have contributed enough to the system through taxes, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits; even if you have not been able to pay into the pool, you may still be eligible for disability benefits through another program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
While applications for these benefits sometimes go smoothly and turn out in the applicant’s favor, many applications are initially denied. There are many levels of appeal for a denied benefits claims that an applicant can take advantage of through legal action.
In 2014, even more applicants for disability benefits may have to pursue appeals, as there has been a trend of increased denials. Benefits will be up slightly, however, for those who are successful in getting SSD or SSI benefits in 2014.
Fewer than half of disability claims initially denied are now approved at the first level of appeal
When someone initially applies for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, an initial approval or denial is issued based a review within the agency of the applicant’s medical records. Only about 25 to 35 percent of claims are approved for disability benefits at that point in the process. Those who are denied benefits initially have the option to present their case to an administrative law judge through the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.
Many of those initially denied at the outset receive approval after their case is heard by an administrative law judge. There are a variety of reasons, but one of the most important is that those who initially filed without a disability advocate and were denied disability benefits are more likely to retain a Social Security Disability advocate before going before an administrative law judge; a disability advocate experienced in the Social Security system can present more persuasive arguments and gather evidence that increases a claim’s chances of success.
However, in recent years there has been a trend in which administrative law judges are becoming more likely to deny disability claims. According to data from the Social Security Administration, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review approved 64 percent of the cases it heard in fiscal year 2010. By fiscal year 2011, that percentage had dropped to 54 percent, and in 2012 it fell again to 48 percent. Fiscal year 2013 saw a more modest decrease, but a decrease nonetheless, with benefits granted in 47 percent of cases.
While it may be getting harder to get a disability claim approved, benefits are going up slightly for 2014. There will be a 1.5 percent cost of living increase to benefits in 2014, bringing the average monthly SSD payment for an individual to $1,148 and the basic monthly federal SSI payment to $721.
What does the trend mean for you?
The best way to increase your chances of filing a successful disability claim with the Social Security Administration is retaining a Social Security Disability advocate as early in the process as possible. Your disability advocate will present your case favorably and ensure you receive any benefits to which you are entitled by law. Get in touch with a Social Security Disability advocate today to get help pursuing a disability claim.