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Committee report exposes variances in disability approval rates

To critics who allege that undeserving individuals are receiving disability payments through programs like Social Security disability insurance, a recent article sets the record straight.

First of all, the amount of monthly benefits is a lifeline, not a luxury, as the average SSDI payment is $1,146. In fact, disabled workers may need to explore a variety of state and federal programs in order to make ends meet. Fortunately, programs like Medicaid may have comparable eligibility standards, and documentation that was submitted as part of an SSDI application might come in handy in other applications.

Moreover, the approval rate for SSDI applications is low. In 2013, administrative law judges approved slightly more than half of the cases that came before them. Keep in mind that an administrative law judge gets involved in the SSDI process only after an initial application has been denied. In other words, a hearing before an ALJ is a step in the appeals process. Those who persist in their quest to obtain SSDI eligibility often have strong claims, yet only 56 percent of those cases won in 2013.

Finally, the requirements for eligibility are also tough: SSDI payments are intended only for workers with a disability that is expected to either result in death or prevent them from working for at least a year. Yet even for those workers that qualify for SSDI payments, the process may take a long time before payments begin. According to one administrative law judge, many wait at least three years before they get the coverage they have earned from paying into the system all those years when they were able to work.

Source: Boston Herald, "Report: Social Security judges rubber-stamp claims," June 10, 2014

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