Thursday, June 09, 2011

Filing for SSDI and the Chances of being Approved by a Judge

A recent report on FBN purported to have some significant statistics regarding the social security disability program. According to the report, 10.2 million new individuals "joined the program" as it put it. By this, I assume they meant that this was the number of individuals who came into receipt status for social security disability benefits. The report also stated that this number constituted an increase of 489,000 SSDI benefit recipients as compared to 2009.

None of this should be shocking, of course, though this seems to be the angle pursued by news media. After all...

1. There are, and will continue to be, more older individuals in the country. Since many of those individuals will experience illness and injury well before full retirement age, you can expect to see a rise in disability claims. The country, statistically and demographically, is "graying".

2. Loss of industry and jobs simply means that many individuals who were working at jobs, and who had significant functional limitations for which they could find some level of accomodation with their employer, were put in the position of having to start over. It's not hard to surmise that walking into a new job with a new employer while having a severe impairment can be a much more difficult proposition than having learned to adapt to the demands of a prior job that was, possibly, done for many years. Also, the clear reality is that many employers will shy away from hiring anyone with obvious limitations for fear of what that might entail for their own insurance premiums (workers comp, employer-provided health insurance).

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the report from Fox Business News was the fact that the program failed to mention the following facts:

1. The disability backlogs that exist in the system developed in the preceding administration, in which the social security administration was never given a budget appropriate to allowing it to fully staff its field offices.

2. The prior administration caused a significant increase in social security hearing backlogs due to a failed initiative known as HPI which no longer exists and only made things worse.

3. Backlogs have had financially devastating repercussions for millions of Americans who have functionally limiting conditions that prevent them from being able to engage in work activity in which they can earn a substantial and gainful wage.

4. While 60 percent of those who go to hearings are approved, that still means that 40 percent are denied, and this is after years of involvement with the social security appeal process, years in which many individuals go broke and lose nearly everything they have. This is not, on the face of it, an overly generous system. And for most individuals who get through the process and begin to receive benefits, those benefits will be meager at best. SSDI, even for high wage earners, does not provide a comfortable standard of living by any means.

Previous Posts pertaining to Filing for SSDI

Correct Steps for Filing a Social Security Disability Claim
Filing for Disability - Doctors and Documentation
Filing for Disability based on Depression and Medical Evidence
What's so hard about Filing for Disability
Filing for Disability with Fibromyalgia - it has its own problems
Filing for Disability for a Child
Tips for Veterans filing for Social Security Disability or SSI
How many people file for disability benefits?
When to File for Disability - tip: don't wait
When should you file for Disability Benefits
How to File for disability or File for SSI - do it as soon as possible
How do you apply for Social Security Disability or SSI - How to file
How bad should my condition be before I file for disability ?
How do I Apply for Disability Benefits - Notes on Applying for Disability
SSI Benefits - How to apply for SSI Disability

Part of the FBN report, not surprisingly, focused on the case of one SSA ALJ (a social security administration administrative law judge) who seems to approves nearly all of the cases that he hears. I say "not surprisingly" because conservative news media makes a highly predictable habit of trying to indict federal programs that exist to help and serve citizens in need.

However, the approval statistics of one disability judge have very little to do with the fact that, of the remaining judges, the percentage of cases that they approve is only about sixty percent.

That 60 percent is much better than the odds one will get at the disability application level (about 30-35%) or at the reconsideration appeal level (about 85-87%); And claimants should be aware of it because many many claimants drop out along the way and never pursue their case as far as the hearing level (often because they do not understand their appeal rights or because they feel that their chances of winning disability benefits are hopeless). However, it should also be pointed out that the sixty percent approval rate has been fairly consistent for many years.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog