Social Security Disability Denials: What a Denial Means

A denial doesn't necessarily mean you're not disabled -- look at your denial letter to see the rationale for the denial.

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Disability denials are what most disability claimants can expect to receive after they file a claim for benefits with the Social Security Administration. Statistically, initial claims have a denial rate of approximately 67%. Reconsiderations (the first step of appeals) are denied at an even higher rate (up to 87%). A denial means that you'll need to file an appeal and hope Social Security changes its mind.

The Denial Letter

A notice of denial from the Social Security Administration will contain a brief description of your medical condition, the impairments that were considered, the medical and nonmedical records that were considered, and an explanation for the denial. For instance, the explanation might say that there are jobs other than your prior work that you can still do. Some denial notices will include a "technical rationale," a full explanation of the medical issues that led to the denial decision and usually a discussion of your residual functional capacity (RFC) and past jobs. If your notice doesn't include the rationale, request your file from Social Security so that you can review it. For more information, see our article on reviewing your disability file before an appeal.

Technical Rationale

Here's an example of a technical rationale from Social Security excerpted from Nolo's Guide to Social Security Disability:

A Denial Does Not Mean You Can't Win Disability Benefits

The fact that your disability claim was denied does not necessarily mean that you aren't disabled. The most basic fact of the SSA disability process is simply that most cases will be denied, often because there wasn't enough medical evidence to prove the case, forcing claimants to go through the disability appeal process. Disability claimants should never resign themselves to giving up on an SSDI or SSI claim. Quite the opposite, the moment a claim is denied means that you can appeal the denial, and the sooner you appeal, the sooner Social Security will schedule a hearing, which gives you the best chance of winning your claim.

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