The Social Security benefits attorneys at the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group came across an interesting article this week. The Washington Times reported that “House Republicans signaled this week they will pressure the Social Security Administration to crack down on administrative law judges who appear to “rubber stamp” Social Security benefits for applicants who had been denied at a lower tier.”
We agree that judges should apply the law and not “rubber stamp” claims or grant Social Security benefits to those who are not entitled to them. However, we also think it’s important to understand the whole story. In reality, many individuals are denied disability benefits to which they are entitled. Additionally, the Social Security Administration is notorious for denying claims in early stages of review, which forces individuals to have to appeal.
Our History with Social Security Disability Cases
We have seen individuals with strong cases and life threatening illnesses who were initially denied Social Security benefits that were deserved. Fortunately, we have been able to help these individuals through the appeals process and advocate on their behalf. Unfortunately, not all individuals retain an attorney or appeal. Some individuals just take the initial denial at face value, assuming that the Social Security benefits office must be right and that they must look elsewhere for help.
A Huffington Post article on the subject of Social Security benefits includes the responses of some of the judges accused of “rubber stamping” the benefit appeals. The judges testified to the pain of the individuals they see in front of them, to the long wait periods these individuals endure, and to the judges’ own ability to understand and apply the law better than some of the individuals who initially review the Social Security benefits applications.
One judge stated "I've seen their ailments, I've seen their pain, right in front of me.” Another expressed his concern over workers who have earned their Social Security disability benefit who must "wait three years to get the coverage they earned” during which time “[l]ives and families are destroyed.” He concluded that he was confident in the decisions he has made.
The judges are being attacked for high disability approvals on appeal. However, no one seems to be criticizing the very low approval rate for initial applications. Only 28% of initial applications for Social Security disability benefits between 2001-2010 were approved. In 2013, only 34% of applications were ultimately approved. The percentage of approvals has been decreasing over time.
The other misconception that is implied, but not directly addressed by the House inquiry, is that people “make money” or “get rich” off of Social Security disability benefits. The reality is very different. The average benefit is just over $1,100 per month, which for many is their only income. One family mentioned in a recent NBC article is a typical example. The father in the family incurred traumatic brain injury in a fall and the mother suffered a back fracture. They are raising three children and their rent payment accounts for 1/3 of their Social Security benefit. They are, quite simply, struggling to get by.
Contact an Attorney Today
If your social security disability application has been denied, contact the experienced attorneys at Whitcomb, Selinsky PC firm or the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group today to discuss your options. We are here to help you secure the compensation that you truly deserve. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to. Please call (303) 534-1958 or complete a contact form on our website.