Social Security Disability Benefit DenialsApproximately 62 percent of initial Social Security disability applications are denied, according to the Social Security Administration. This can be devastating for a person who deserves to receive Social Security disability benefits and who has been wrongfully denied or denied because of a technicality. While some of these denials are appealed and later result in disability benefits, a denial results in an unnecessary delay of benefits. Accordingly, it is important to know why so many initial Social Security disability applications are denied and what you can do to prevent it from happening to you.

Reasons You Can Be Denied Social Security Disability

While each Social Security disability application is decided on its own merits, there are some common reasons for denials. For example, your application may be denied if:

  • You don’t have enough medical evidence. The Social Security Administration requires that you prove you are unable to work due to your condition. It is important for your doctor to document your visits, your diagnosis, your treatment plan, your symptoms, and your prognosis. This may include imaging results, test results, and more.

  • You don’t fully document the effects of your disability to prove that your disability is severe. The majority of disabilities are not very straightforward. To be approved for disability benefits, you must document all aspects of your disability, including any physical and mental limitations you have with your medical condition and the effects of your disability on your activities of daily living.

  • You have a previous denial. If you have already been denied on your first application, it is not always a good idea to file a new one. Your case evaluator will see that you were denied once and may automatically reject the second application. An appeal may be a better option for you.

  • Your disability won’t last the required time. In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, your disability must last at least 12 months or be expected to result in your death. If your medical records don’t show this to be true, then your application will be denied. 

  • You fail to cooperate with the Social Security disability office. This could happen if, for example, you miss appointments, you delay sending documentation, or you refuse to release medical records.

  • You are earning too much money. If your current income exceeds the substantial gainful activity (SGA) allowance, then your application will be denied. This only includes money that you earn from working. It does not include investments.

  • You fail to follow the treatment your doctor prescribes. If you are being treated for your condition, but do not, for example, take prescribed medicines or show up for physical therapy, then your application may be denied. There are some exceptions, however. For example, you may be mentally unable to comply with the treatment, you may have religious objections to the treatment plan, or you may be unable to afford to pay for medical treatments.

  • The Social Security Administration can’t find you. If the Social Security Administration cannot reach you to communicate with you, then your application may be denied. You should contact the agency if you move. You may choose to have your Social Security disability lawyer handle all communications on your behalf.

  • Your disability is based on drug addiction or alcoholism. The Social Security Administration is unlikely to grant benefits to anyone who would not be disabled if he or she were not using drugs or alcohol. 

  • You have been found guilty of a crime. If you are in prison due to a felony conviction, you became impaired while committing a felony, or you became disabled while in prison, a denial is most likely. However, once you are released from prison that can change.

  • You have been found guilty of fraud. If the Social Security Administration discovers that you have fraudulently obtained benefits, then you can be prosecuted and you can lose your benefits. 

When your application is denied, the Social Security Administration will send you a letter with reasons that your claim was rejected. This letter can be frustrating and painful—especially if you are counting on the money to help you pay for necessities such as food and shelter. To add to the frustration, a denial letter may be extremely confusing as to why your application was rejected. Although your letter may try to explain the denial by containing phrases like “non-severe,” “does not meet impairment listings,” or “sufficient work ability,” it doesn’t truly explain the issue.

How a Lawyer Can Help Prevent a Denial

While you may be able to appeal a denial of Social Security disability benefits, it is better to seek legal counsel before you apply so that you can prevent a denial, if possible. Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers can help protect your rights and help you get the benefits that you deserve.

To learn more, please download our free guide on understanding disability claims: Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability. You will not only learn more about your rights and claim options, but you will also see how our knowledge and experience can help you get the justice you deserve.

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 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.




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