What are the Most Common Mistakes People Make on a Social Security Disability Insurance Appeal?

If the Social Security Administration (SSA) has rejected your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, don't give up. The vast majority of applications are denied the first time around. But every applicant has the right to appeal. What's more, you may have a good chance of succeeding on appeal if you avoid making the critical errors that lead to rejection. Here are five common mistakes to avoid on appeal.

Not Providing Enough Medical Evidence

Mistakes on Social Security Paperwork Crumpled Up on a TableProving that you are disabled within the SSA's definition and cannot work is the heart and soul of your application. If you are missing vital reports, X-rays, evaluations, or other evidence documenting your impairment, the SSA will reject your request. On appeal, make sure that you have included as much relevant medical documentation of your disability as possible in your file. Ensure that your primary care physician doctor has noted in your file that your impairment prevents you from working or that you should not work because of your condition. Include any helpful new medical reports you've received or treatment that you've tried since filing your initial application. You need to make it clear to the SSA that you are trying to manage or overcome your impairment, but the condition still prevents you from working despite your efforts. An experienced social security disabilities lawyer can help you spot critical missing information that can make a difference on appeal.

Failing to Adhere to Your Advised Medical Treatments

The SSA expects to see that you are following the course of treatment that your doctor has proposed and making every effort to overcome your impairment. The administration may have rejected your initial application because they believed you weren't following your doctor's orders.

On appeal, submit proof that you have continued to see your medical provider regularly and take the medicines or engage in their prescribed treatments. If extenuating circumstances prevent you from following the prescribed treatment, the SSA may excuse you if you provide sufficient evidence of the situation's particulars.

Extenuating Circumstances That May Prevent a Prescribed Treatment

  • An inability to afford the proposed treatment
  • The proposed treatments or medications go against your religious beliefs
  • A severe mental illness prevents you from following the treatment
  • A second medical opinion advises you not to follow your doctor's proposed treatments
  • You cannot follow the proposed treatment because of a pre-existing condition
  • A fear of addiction to opioids
  • The side effects affect you worse than the impairment
  • The treatments wouldn't improve your condition enough for you to return to work

Earning Too Much Income

If you are not blind and earned more than $1,220 per month through "substantial gainful activity," the SSA will reject your application. Only people who can't work because of their disability are eligible to receive benefits. If you engage in work that earns a substantial income, it contradicts your claim's basis. Note that income earned from investments or most other types of passive income will not count against you.

If you are receiving unemployment benefits, this may work against you as well. The government assumes that people who receive unemployment benefits are capable of working and actively seeking work. There are some circumstances where you may be able to collect unemployment and SSDI simultaneously, but you should speak to a knowledgeable disability lawyer to determine whether your situation applies.

Making the Same Mistakes as on the Initial Application

If you make the same errors in your file on appeal as in your original application, you'll face rejection again. The SSA may reject an initial SSDI application for one of several common reasons.

Common Reasons the SSA Rejects SSDI Applications

  • Insufficient medical evidence
  • Missing or incorrect contact information
  • Illegible handwriting
  • Failing to answer obligatory questions
  • Making contradictory statements

Carefully review your original application and correct mistakes such as these when preparing for the appeal.

Failing to Work With a Social Security Disability Attorney

An experienced Social Security disability attorney can help you navigate all the challenges of appealing your SSDI claim. They can review your original claim, help you identify missing documents or information, ensure you obtain the medical documentation to which you're entitled, and guide, advise, and support you throughout the appeals process.

If you are going through the appeal process for your SSDI claim, a skilled disability lawyer can increase your chances of success. If you would like to speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer, please contact us online or call directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation as soon as possible.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer
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