- Last Updated: 08 November 2015 08 November 2015
Obtaining Disability Benefits. . .David versus Goliath?
Remember the epic battle between David and Goliath? On paper, David clearly had no chance to win. Fortunately his heart and soul did not know it—and with determination, persistence and divine intervention he prevailed! Ever wonder what might have happened if he was aware of his predicament? Would he have fought or run the other way?
Every day at the Social Security Administration (SSA), seemingly epic battles between disability claimants and SSA are fought. The bounty? Disability benefits.
The battle unfolds like this: you become unable to work due to a physical and/or mental illness and apply for disability benefits. After all, you've paid into the system all these years for this exact situation. Heck, even your doctor says you can't work. You figure it is simply a matter of completing paperwork and time until you begin receiving benefits. . .but for now you are starting to experience financial problems.
As the months go by without an answer, you reassure yourself this must be a simple case and the delay is "due to government bureaucracy." After several more months your frustration grows, you call SSA and get no answers, or worse, the ones you get are all different! The bureaucrats you spoke with were rude and put off by your phone call. You remind yourself SSA is on your side. Its job is to help people like yourself by paying disability benefits, right? But. . .you begin to feel like David.
The Big Day. . .
You finally receive an envelope from SSA, tear it open to find a benefit check and instead read: "We have Denied your claim for disability benefits as our trained staff and medical doctors have determined you are not disabled under our laws."
You're angered, frustrated, scared, intimidated and now overwhelmed by the thought of fighting Goliath. . .the Federal Government.
Pages into the decision it mentions appeal rights, but the decision seemed so final and left you with no hope. You do not know the law, the system and even if it is worth it or how to fight. Your alone and defeated. . .exactly how SSA wants you to feel!
As a disability attorney I meet with clients everyday who tell me this same story. Fortunately, those clients took the bold step of appealing the denial and fighting for benefits.
What should you do? Persevere!
75% of all disability applicants initially will be denied benefits! Half of those denied will give up and not appeal the denial! However, 53% of the applicants who persevere to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) obtain benefits!
Now you understand how the system works—it is designed to deny benefits to as many people as possible. SSA denies initial applications because it knows 50% of the people will give up and not appeal! But for those who persevere and appeal the denials, the majority is eventually granted benefits.