Filing for Disability is not easy -- contrary to the opinions of some
Someone recently made a comment on the facebook page for SSDRC.com (Social Security Disability Resource Center) and the individual's statement seemed to imply the opinion that the majority of claimants are filing simply to milk the system. As a former disability examiner, I find this a bit naive, quite a bit uninformed, and if I were a person that had been forced to leave my job due to one or more disabling impairments, I would have found it very insulting. Of course, you tend to find these attitudes in people who have been lucky enough to live lives relatively free of injury, illness, and pain.
I wrote the following response:
If you develop an autoimmune disorder or a severe musculoskeletal problem, or a neoplastic disease (cancer), or memory difficulties as the result of any one of a number of conditions, or you develop any other condition that makes it impossible for you to return to your past work and also, as a result of your age, functional limitations, and level of education, makes it further impossible to transfer your cumulative work skills to any job other than one that's two thousand miles away, you'll probably take the position that "you are one of the deserving ones", right?
For your information, administrative law judges still deny approximately half of all cases that they hear. So it's actually not as easy as one might think to get approved for disability benefits.
Yet, at the same time, those cases that do get approved by an ALJ were previously denied for disability benefits by disability examiners at the prior two levels. That doesn't speak volumes of a system that's logical or fair. It says that there is a lot of subjective interpretation of medical evidence and that the system is slanted against disability claimants. The use of attorneys only allows claimants to effectively present their cases.
I'm sure if you yourself applied, you would have no familiarity with concepts like past work, other work, substantial gainful work activity, the SSA definition of disability, treating physicians, medical source statements, recency of evidence, date last insured, insured status for benefits, etc. That's why people get disability lawyers. Because those who show up at hearings unrepresented don't have even a general understanding of the information in their file and, really, why they were denied.
Finally, claims are going up. Some of it is related to work displacement. But that's always been true. However, claims would be going up regardless of the economy.
The country is aging. Ten thousand people a day are coming into full retirement age. And because of these demographic trends, more people are filing for disability simply because a percentage of us will continue to find that as we go through our fourth, fifth, and sixth decades, we will develop illnesses, suffer injuries, and find that conditions that we've had for years are now worsening to the point where it affects our ability to maintain empoyment at a level that provides income at what SSA calls a substantial gainful activity level.
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Qualifying for Disability - How difficult are the Qualifications ?
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SSD, Social Security Disability Benefit Requirements and Work Credits