Odds are that you’ll be denied the first time you apply for disability benefits.
Only about 35 percent of applications are approved at their initial filing.
At the next stage of review, called reconsideration, even fewer applicants receive benefits. Roughly 15 percent of those applications are approved.
The next stage is the hearing, where approvals rise to their highest level, about 45 percent.
Initial denials boil down to just a handful of reasons, typically.
The first reason applications are denied is lack of evidence. Social Security may not have enough medical records to make a determination about whether you’re disabled.
That may be due to missing records, or your medical records just don’t support a finding that you’re disabled.
Often, an administrative law judge will disagree with this assessment. Sometimes the judge will find that at the earlier levels the evidence was misinterpreted.
Other times, new evidence may come to light that shows you’ve become disabled since you initially filed your application, although this may mean that the judge finds you disabled at a later date than when you initially filed.
Social Security also has special “grid rules” that come into play as an applicant reaches age 50 that make it easier to receive benefits.
It’s not uncommon for someone to be denied at age 48 or 49, but if they keep appealing, they’ll be approved at age 50.
The grid rules take into account your ability to perform past work. Another reason that applicants are denied is that they don’t describe their past work correctly, or it gets classified incorrectly by Social Security.
Sometimes, an applicant can quickly receive benefits at the hearing level just by correcting this mistake.
Ultimately, many of these denials boil down to errors on the part of Social Security, so even though the appeal process is lengthy, it’s almost always worth it to appeal because many times a judge will spot these errors and award you benefits.