It is no secret that the Social Security Administration denies a significant amount of Social Security Disability applicants when they first apply. In fact, on average around 70 percent of all SSD applicants are denied on their first application.

But the question remains – why does the SSA deny so many first time applicants? To understand why the SSA denies so many first time applications potential SSD applicants need to understand what a disability claims examiner looks for when reviewing these initial claims.

Once an applicant submits his or her application to the SSA, the application will be sent for initial review where an examiner will approve or deny the claim based on the information and documentation provided. Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons why the SSA might deny an initial SSD application.

The applicant earns too much income

SSD applicants are still allowed to work a small amount when they first apply for disability benefits under the SSA’s rules. However, the disability examiner will not approve a claim if you earn more than the SSA’s substantial gainful activity limit. This amount comes out to $1,090 a month. Because the SSA views income as a claimant’s ability to work, if an applicant is earning more than the SGA limit, the SSA will believe that the applicant is not so disabled that he or she cannot work.

The applicant’s disability is not severe enough

The severity of a SSD applicant’s disability is a key component of a claim. To qualify for SSD benefits, the SSA must believe that the applicant’s impairment is severe enough to last at least twelve months or result in the applicant’s death. During the initial review, the examiner will consider whether the applicant’s disability meets these qualifications and whether the disability significantly limits the work that the person can perform. If an applicant’s disability is not considered to be sufficiently severe, then the application will be denied.

The applicant can do work he or she did previously.

An important question that is asked during the application review process is whether the applicant can still perform work he or she has done in the past despite suffering from a disability. To evaluate this question, the SSA assesses the applicant’s residual functional capacity. This term means how much ability the applicant has despite his or her medical conditions. If the examiner believes that the applicant can perform past job duties, the applicant’s claim will be denied based on the fact that he or she can return to a prior line of work.

The applicant can perform other types of work

Even if an applicant cannot perform past work, an examiner may find that there are other jobs available that the applicant can perform despite his or her disability. If the examiner believes that the applicant can get a job performing less physically or mentally demanding work than the work he or she previously performed then the applicant’s claim will be denied.

How to improve your chances

To improve your chances on your first application for SSD benefits, consider taking the following actions:

  • If you are working when you first apply for SSD benefits evaluate whether your income exceeds the substantial gainful activity limit
  • Talk with your doctor about the severity of your condition
  • Be vigilant about collecting all the required information for your application and consult the SSA’s Checklist for Applications
  • Consider finding an experienced disability attorney to help you with your claim.