The Social Security Administration (SSA) employs strict criteria when determining whether or not someone should be approved for benefits. Consequently, over two-thirds of all initial applications are denied. If your own application is denied, you have the right to appeal the SSA decision and make a stronger, more convincing case for the benefits you need.
Why SSD Claims Are Denied
Many factors can play a role in claim denial. With few exceptions, there are usually multiple reasons for turning down an application. Below is a list of conditions and situations that figure in the most claim denials, and why they can be a deal-breaker.
- The medical evidence is inconclusive. This is an especially important one. In 2010, over 680,000 claims were denied on the basis of medical evidence. If your medical documentation does not accurately portray your overall condition and / or fails to make it clear that your functional capacity is limited, the SSA may conclude that you can do less sedentary work and deny your application.
- Your treatment plan was not followed. Your doctor creates a treatment plan to make your symptoms more manageable. When you don’t follow it as directed, the SSA will wonder whether you are inadvertently making your disability worse. If they suspect that this is the case, your claim will be denied.
- Income that surpasses that substantial gainful activity allowance. SSD applicants are limited in how much money they are allowed to earn, as benefits are intended to support people who cannot maintain gainful employment. If you earn over $1,260 per month ($2,110 if you're blind), your application will be denied.
- Nonmedical factors contribute to your disability. The SSD applicant may be denied if their impairment appears to be due (in whole or in part) to controllable factors. For example, if you abuse drugs or alcohol and such habits make you feel worse, benefit denial is likely.
Approximately 46% of disability claimants in Arkansas are approved the first time around. The remaining 54% have to appeal their denial if they are to receive benefits they need.
Next Step: Your ODAR Office
The Office of Disability Adjudication & Review (ODAR) administers the SSA hearings and appeals program. It has 10 regional offices throughout the United States and 169 offices where appeals are processed and heard. When you want to appeal your claim denial, you will have to contact one of the two branch offices in Arkansas:
- Fort Smith: Central Mall, Suite 4755111 Rogers Avenue, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72903-2034. Phone: 1-479-452-0137
- Little Rock: 2405 Federal Office Building, 700 West Capitol Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201. Phone: 1-866-592-2549
To arrange a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you must contact the closest ODAR office, either in person, via phone, or by sending a letter. You also have the option of filing your appeal online. Processing times will vary depending on each location’s caseload and number of available ALJs.
In Little Rock, the average wait time for a hearing is 14.5 months and case processing time averages at 467 days. In Fort Smith, you will wait an average of 10 months for a hearing and 382 days for your case to be processed.
After you contact your closest ODAR office, they will set your hearing date and send you a letter advising you of the date, time, and location.
Working with an SSD Disability Attorney
Hiring a Social Security attorney is a proven way of increasing your likelihood of receiving disability benefits. When you are appealing a denial, your attorney can fill out the required paperwork on your behalf and prepare you for the hearing. They can also:
- Help you collect all relevant medical evidence and present it in a way that makes your disability clear
- Ensure that the entire application package is complete
- Let you know what questions the ALJ is likely to ask and advise you on how to answer
- Creating and sustaining an open and positive dialogue between you and the SSA
Your attorney can accompany you to your nearest SSA office and even deal with the SSA on your behalf, which is an advantage if you have chronic pain or limited mobility. Below is a list of three primary SSA offices in Arkansas:
- Little Rock: 700 W Capitol Street, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
- Hot Springs: 112 Corporate Terrace, Hot Springs, Arkansas 71913
- Jonesboro: 1809 Latourette Drive, Jonesboro, Arkansas 72404
Talk To an Attorney Today
A Social Security Disability attorney will prepare you for your hearing, amass all necessary documentation, and ensure that you apply for a hearing within 60 days of your claim denial. It all adds up to a much better chance of being approved the second time around. To contact an experienced SSD attorney, complete the free evaluation form.