An analysis of Social Security applications confirms that Massachusetts residents need to prepare carefully when filing for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration, or SSA.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, most applications for Social Security Disability Income, or SSDI, get denied. This is so even though people of all ages can easily face a disability, with disability rates spiking as people get older and closer to retirement.
Of all applications, fewer than half, about 3.5 out of 10, ultimately lead to an award of benefits. Of the 34% of applications allowed, about 23% get accepted at the outset with an additional 2% being allowed after an internal review. The remaining 9% get accepted on review by an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ.
Of the 2/3rd of applications that ultimately get denied, over 35% get denied because the applicant could not prove he or she had a medical disability as defined by the SSA.
The remainder were denied on unrelated legal grounds, such as cases in which a person did not have a long enough work history to qualify for SSDI.
Interestingly, over the years ALJs have gotten stricter about accepting applications on review. Ten years ago, over 60% of reviews ended with the ALJ awarding benefits. More recently, the percentage has dropped well below 50%.
Awards on initial decisions have risen slightly but still hover just below 40%.
Preparation and good documentation is key to a successful claim
While these numbers are sobering, Massachusetts residents who are disabled and unable to work should not give up hope.
If anything, these numbers only show how important it is to have a thoroughly prepared application for benefits, including a well-documented injury or medical condition.
An experienced Social Security professional can help a person both evaluate the strength of his or her disability claim and prepare a new application or an administrative review.