If you’re thinking about applying for disability, you probably want to know about the kinds of things that might affect whether you win or lose your claim. Is there a certain time of year that’s better? Do people with your disability typically end up receiving benefits?
Well, recently the Social Security Advisory Board looked into a variety of factors to determine what influenced a claimant winning or losing their claim at the initial level. It didn’t go into the appeals process, so that’s a completely separate issue. What are these factors?
Most Important Factors in Deciding Claims at the Initial Level
Before we go into it, I should tell you that the data for this study comes from SSA records. I mention this because even the SSAB complained that it wasn’t very comprehensive and recommended several changes to the SSA to improve their data collection. That being said, it’s still helpful to look at the information they did have.
Not all diagnoses are created equal. While people who have neoplasms, intellectual impairments, and genitourinary diagnoses are “relatively more likely” than other applicants to win their claim at the initial level, those with primary musculoskeletal diagnoses are less likely to get a favorable decision.
Older is better. The older you are, the more likely it is that you will receive a favorable initial decision. In contrast, minors who apply for SSI have a very difficult time winning their claims.
High unemployment means lower acceptance. There are two ways to interpret this data. One is that the SSA tries to “tighten its belt” in specific states where jobs are scarce because the overall economy isn’t doing well and they want to conserve money. The other way is to assume that higher unemployment causes more people with “marginal” disabilities to apply and the SSA is good at weeding them out.
Representation leads to benefits. Though there wasn’t a dramatic difference in acceptance rates at the initial level, those claimants who worked with Social Security Disability attorneys did win a higher percentage of the time than those without reps.