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Top 5 Reasons Why Disability Claims are Denied

Millions of people apply for Social Security Disability benefits each year. Out of those millions of applications received by the Social Security Administration, only thirty percent are approved at the initial level of the disability claim process. Why are so many Social Security Disability claims denied?

The reasons for a denial of Social Security Disability benefits vary from one claim to the next, but there are five common reasons for a claim to be denied. If you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits it is important to understand the top five reasons why the Social Security Administration denies so many claims.

The common reasons a Social Security disability benefits claim is denied are as follows:

#1: Lack of Hard Medical Evidence

Many Social Security Disability claims are denied due to a lack of solid medical evidence. If you want to qualify for disability benefits you will need to prove that you are unable to work due to your disabling condition.

In order to succeed in this, you must have medical records that show your disability has interfered with your ability to perform work activity.

For example, you may be seeing your doctor every month for severe back pain but if your doctor has not documented how that back pain interferes with your ability to work, your claim for Social Security Disability may be denied.

Many people assume that Social Security will send them to doctors who will gather the evidence needed to qualify and approve a claim for Social Security Disability benefits. This isn't the case. Even if you are sent for medical exam by the Social Security office, it may not be enough to prove your disability.

The medical records kept by your primary care physicians are what will be most important in determining the success of your claim for Social Security Disability benefits. Because of this, it is very important that you discuss how your disability is impacting your work life with your physician.

Doctor's notes excusing you from work or records suggesting a modified work schedule should be included with your medical files if possible. If you were working prior to filing for disability and had to miss time from work due to the disability, keep record of just how much time was lost.

This will help present your case for Social Security Disability to the Social Security Administration.

#2: Prior Denials

Many people think that filing a new disability claim is a better alternative than appealing a denied one. This is not the case. In some situations, a claim will be denied when the person reviewing the claim sees that you applied for Social Security Disability and were denied benefits before.

Because of this, it is important that you go through the appeals process rather than filing a new claim for Social Security Disability altogether if your initial claim is denied

Most disability claims are denied. Here are out top five reasons why!

#3: Your Income

This is only if you are applying for SSI benefits. Your income does not matter when applying for SSDI benefits. Some people who apply for SSI benefits can work part time and earn money during the process. However, If you are working and earning more than $880 per month when you apply for Social Security Disability, your claim could get denied.

The Social Security Administration will only approve Social Security Disability claims for people who are unable to work due to their disability.

#4: Failure to Follow Treatment

If you fail to follow the treatment prescribed to you by your doctor, the Social Security Administration will deny your claim. The reason for this is that the examiner will not be able to accurately determine whether or not your condition actually prevents you from being able to work if you are unwilling to cooperate with treatment.

If there is valid reason for not following through with the treatment prescribed by your doctor, you can bring this up during the appeals process. You will, however, want a Social Security Disability attorney representing you in this case.

#5: Failure to Cooperate

No matter how you feel about the people handling your Social Security Disability claim, it is in your best interests to cooperate with them during the application process.

If you fail to provide the Social Security office with requested documentation or fail to show up to your scheduled medical exams, your claim will be denied. Because of this, it is important to remain in contact with the person handling your case and provide any and all documentation requested in a timely manner.

Improving the Possibility of Success

While it is true that only 30 percent of initial Social Security Disability claims are approved, understanding the reasons why so many disability claims are denied can help you increase your chances of a successful Social Security Disability application.

Keep the above tips in mind when applying for Social Security Disability benefits if you want to increase your chances of falling into that lucky 30 percent.

Additional Resources


I am one of the 30% that was approved the first time. I had all my medical records together, the names of my doctors, hospital, contact information for the doctors, upcoming doctor appointments - that is one of the questions asked - when is your next appointment. Social security wants to make sure you are actively getting medical care. The reasons why you are disabled and can't work. The diagnosis you were given. Social security will check everything out, they will call you and see how you are doing and verify what is on the application. It took me six months, which is pretty normal to find out I had been approved. Social security disability is not an immediate form of income. They will look at any other kinds of income such as time loss if you have a work injury. I was fortunate that I didn't need to hire an attorney, but I understand why people do.

Hi Mary,
Thank you for sharing! It's good to hear it all worked out.

Hi Daniel,

You may qualify under the SSA's Blue Book listing 1.00. Your condition will need to meet the guidelines laid out here. You can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to find out more or review the Blue Book listing to see if you meet the outlined criteria.

I just got denied a second time. I had open heart surgery over a year ago and have had complications from the surgery. My sternum split and did not heal correctly and I have tremendous pain from it. I have degenerative lumber disc disease, 2 of my heart chamber are enlarged, and I picked up an extra 9 heartbeats a minute & to top it all off I have an aortic root aneurysm that is in the moderate range. No shoveling, no lifting over 25lbs, no bearing down to poop or the aneurysm could rupture. If it does I will be dead before I hit the floor. Yet SS says I can work cause I don't have heart failure. What a joke. And yes I have a lawyer working on it.

Hi Mike,

You could try to qualify by having your doctor completing a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. These can help those who are unable to work for at least a year but don't meet a Blue Book listing get approved for benefits. Your doctor will need to fill it out to show why you cannot work.

Hi Jose,

Those with Lupus may qualify. Review the Blue Book with your doctor to see you meet the qualifications! Lupus is listed under section 14.02 (

Had back surgery on l3 l4 and l5 for Stenosis. Doctor said he had to take 50 percent of the bone out the create room. Asked me after surgery about taking disability but I went back to work. He said I’d eventually need a second surgery to put rods in for support. It’s been three years and the pain is starting to come back. I deal with pain every day. Barely making it. Would I have a chance at approval

Hi Lee,

If after your second surgery, you are unable to work for at least a year, you could qualify for SSDI benefits.

I have been diagnosed with epilepsy and have not worked for years due to this and other issues. I am on medication for it, but I do have a couple of seizures every month that impare me for a few minutes and make me confused. I'm not sure if I should try to apply for benefits. Should I try?

Hi Nancy,

If you were at one point could work full time, but now cannot because of epilepsy, then you could qualify for SSDI benefits.

My girlfriend has severe gastroparesis with a stomach emptying time of 18+ hours instead of the normal 8. She also has severe depression and ptsd. She has never worked due to her condition, which has been present since 6th grade (she is now two years graduated from highschool). Even without having worked, could she be approved the 1st time?

Hi Jasper!

It depends on if she meets the Blue Book listing(s). She should review them with her doctor to make sure she can medically qualify. She'll also have to meet the technical requirements. She likely won't have enough work credits for SSDI. Depending on how much she has in assets, she may qualify for SSI.

Is there a requirement when the credits are accumulated? I am 55 and I have 36 credits. Can I apply for disability?