Getting approved for disability benefits still tough as applications rise

If you know of someone who has applied for Social Security Disability benefits, you know that the approval process can be lengthy with many applications being rejected. However, the difficult approval process has apparently not been much of a barrier to many Americans, as the media has recently reported that the number of benefit recipients has steadily increased in recent years. Experts attribute this statistic to the aging Baby Boomers that are now old enough to be prone to disability, but too young to receive retirement benefits.

If you are one of the many planning to apply for disability benefits, you may not know what outcome to expect. Although the fact that more Americans receive disability benefits would suggest that qualifying for them has become easier, this is not necessarily the case.

A recent report by CBS News increased the perception that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is awarding DIB or SSI benefits too easily. The report found that the number of people receiving disability benefits increased almost three million over the past decade. Furthermore, the number of people applying for benefits has increased by over 25 percent since 2007, with 3.2 million people applying for benefits in 2012 alone. Finally, the report highlighted the fact that the SSA currently has yet to complete a backlog of 1.3 million overdue follow-up reviews to confirm that recipients still qualify for benefits.

This report and ones similar, along with the fact that the SSA recently reported that almost nine million people were receiving disability benefits as of December 2013, may lead many applicants to think that their approval chances would be very good.

Perception vs. reality

Although the statistics may make it seem that qualifying for benefits is a proverbial cakewalk, the reality is that is not always the case. The SSA recently reported that just 33.5 percent of applications were approved in 2013-the lowest rate of approval that it has been in over a decade. As a comparison, the approval rate was 51.7 in 1999. Although it may be true that more people are receiving and applying for benefits, in reality it is possibly less likely than in the past for an applicant to be approved. Because of this, it is important for applicants to not to be overconfident in their chances of approval.

If you have disability that prevents you from working, the application process remains an onerous process. Many applicants are routinely rejected in the early stages of the process. Although rejected applicants can file an appeal, this can also be a lengthy process with steep odds for those inexperienced with it. As a result, it is important to consult with an experienced disability attorney before filing your initial application or appeal. An attorney can review your situation and help you put together an application (or appeal) that would maximize your chances of approval.