By Dennis L. Plank, Attorney
Those unable to work due to injury or illness in Lancaster County have options, thanks to Social Security Disability. This monthly benefit is paid out when people or individuals seeking benefits are unable to work. However, applying for this benefit can be extremely difficult, unfairly stopping people from getting the help they need and deserve. Unfortunately, 63 percent of applicants for Social Security Disability have their first claim rejected. In fact, between 2007 and 2016, fewer than 1 in 4 applicants received benefits at the initial claim level. Two percent were awarded benefits at the reconsideration level and nine percent got benefits at the hearing level. This complex application process is filled with obstacles and easily missed pitfalls – but these can be avoided by seeking a qualified Lancaster County attorney and knowing the top reasons for denials:
Many Claims are Denied Because of Technicalities
Many applicants assume that their health condition is the primary factor in determining their application’s acceptance or rejection. After all, disability benefits should naturally go to those with a disability.
Sadly, this commonsense approach is far from the reality of the process. Many applicants are denied due to technical criteria that are completely unrelated to their health status. Technical denials are common for a number of reasons, including:
- The applicant earning more than $1220 monthly from work. Although many people apply for disability benefits so they can stop working at a strenuous job, or better support their family by supplementing their income, making “too much” money can result in rejection of the claim.
- The applicant has not worked recently enough or consistently enough. Typically, applicants must work at least five out of the last 10 years to get their claim accepted.
- The applicant has not worked long enough. Applicants must have worked long enough to sufficiently pay into the Social Security program.
- There are missing documents, paperwork errors, or Social Security Administration clerical errors. More than a few applications have been denied due to seemingly small errors in paperwork, or because the Social Security Administration makes errors such as miscalculating income.
COVID-19 Delays Make Claim Approval and Appeals Even Slower
Even for the most qualified applicants, getting Social Security Disability is a lengthy and difficult process. The initial application process alone can take up to five months, and if the claim is rejected, appeals can take an additional two to five months. Factoring in COVID-19-related delays, the average wait time is more than 300 days for applicants who file appeals in Pennsylvania to try and get a hearing before an administrative law judge with a backlog of more than tens of thousands of applications. An experienced Lancaster County attorney can help figure out how to move through this laborious process as quickly as possible.
There is a 60-day Deadline for Appealing Denied Claims
Applicants have far less time to challenge denied Social Security disability claims than the Social Security Administration has to deny the claim. To make matters worse, there are additional deadlines in place for requesting a hearing and sending documents. Missing a deadline can mean losing benefits. The limit is 60 days after the denial of the claim, so it is critical to act fast. If the Social Security Administration denies an appeal for reconsideration, there is another 60 day limit for requesting an appeal hearing before a judge.
Confusing Paperwork Causes Problems
One of the most common reasons for claim delays and denials is paperwork errors. Applicants must provide medical records that prove their disability status and establish the date the disability began. They also need to show documentation for all medications they take, why they take them, and even the dosage. They need to provide names and addresses for all of their doctors and the medical facilities where they have been treated. They need to provide detailed records of their work history, financial account information, and workers compensation documents. With all these requirements, even the most well-organized people can have their benefits claim denied.
Don’t Struggle Alone
If you are preparing a Social Security Disability claim, or if a past claim has been rejected, there is still hope. A qualified Lancaster County disability lawyer can help. Contact Going and Plank for a free consultation. We can maximize your claim’s chance of getting accepted, determine whether it is possible to overturn a denied claim, guide you through the appeal process, and help you prepare for hearings.