Mar 10

Is It Hard to Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

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Social Security DisabilityIt is hard to get Social Security Disability benefits despite the attack in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. An opinion piece wrote “a system designed to serve society’s vulnerable has morphed into a benefit bonanza that costs taxpayers billions of dollars more than it should.” The author couldn’t be more wrong and the Los Angeles Times tells us why. It is hard to get Social Security Disability benefits.

The authors of the opinion piece purposefully used old data to make their case. Using dated from 2008 (seven years ago), the authors try to convince their reader that Social Security Disability judges approve about 70% of the claims. If they used the correct data, they would have informed their readers that Social Security’s own inspector general’s office compiled the data through fiscal 2013 for a report issued last July that showed the average approval rate has been coming down for years–reaching 56% in fiscal 2013. According to, the latest national average for ALJ decisions on social security disability claims shows 44% approved, 38% denied, and 18% dismissed. This shows that it is hard to get Social Security Disability benefits.

The also attacked the “huge backlog” in the Social Security Disability system claiming that is partially caused by those seek SSD playing “adjudication roulette, filing and then withdrawing appeals in hopes of drawing a generous judge.” Although they are correct that there is a backlog (the average wait time for a hearing after being denied social security disability benefits is 12.8 months), they supply no evidence to support their claim that claimants are “judge shopping.” The process to obtain social security disability benefits is confusing enough. Claimants without lawyers would not know how to do this. Also, it is nearly impossible to know what judge you would get if you withdraw and refile your claim for Social Security Disability benefits.

Instead of focusing solely on the judges with higher approval rates, why don’t the authors look at those judges with uncommonly low approval rates? According to the LA Times, the inspector general found was that ALJs with unusually low rates of approval also had above-average rates of remands and reversals when their rulings were appealed to the agency’s appeals council.

Let’s put politics aside and look at the people who truly need social security disability benefits. The time and hassles and difficulty to obtain what averages out to be $1,165 per month are not something most people would go through. Are there some “fraudulent” claims? Yes, but there are bad doctors, bad lawyers, and even bad priests, but those few don’t make all of the doctors, lawyers and priests bad.

So, if you read articles about Social Security Disability recipients, try to take the politics out of the article. I am sure that any one of my clients that I represent would be happy to tell you the hell they are going through to get SSD benefits and that they would much rather be able to work than earn the small social security benefits they may receive after years of battling.


Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those fighting to obtain social security disability benefits. His Clearwater law firm – Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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