Legal writing is often bad writing. And Social Security Administration (SSA) correspondence is no different. Trying to figure out why the SSA denied your application for Social Security Disability benefits is usually difficult to figure out. It can be nearly impossible to find the answer to one of the most common questions I get, “Why was my Social Security Disability claim denied?”

Below are 6 reasons you may be denied Social Security disability benefits – and what you can do about it. Follow our tips for help proving you’re disabled and winning your SSD claim. If you have a question or need help with your case, call or email Richmond Social Security Disability attorney Corey Pollard for a free consultation.

Why Was I Denied Social Security Disability Benefits?

Reason 1: You are earning too much money.

The most common reason to be denied benefits is that you are still working and earning above the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level.

If you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) while working, your claim will likely be denied if you are making more than $1,170.00 per month. The limit increases each year. For example, it increased $40 from 2016 to 2017.

Reason 2: You Have a Short Term Disability

Reason 3: You Refuse to Cooperate with the SSA

Reason 4: You Moved or Lost Your Home and Didn't Tell Anyone

Reason 5: You Fail to Follow Prescribed Medical Treatment

  • Your mental illness is so severe that it affects your memory, attention, and concentration, which causes you to forget to take your medication or attend therapy. Many claimants with mental health disorders require a case manager to help them keep track of appointments and medication.
  • You have a below normal intelligence. This is usually measured by an IQ score. If your IQ is 70 or below, you may have difficulty self-administering medication or making and attending appointments.
  • You have a cataract in one eye that needs surgery, but you do not want to move forward with the surgery because your other eye has a severe visual impairment that is incurable.
  • The only way to treat your severe medical impairment is through surgery, but you do not want to undergo another operation because your previous operation was unsuccessful and caused more problems.
  • An operation may resolve your severe medical impairment, but your doctor has told you there is only a 50 percent chance that it will work.
  • You cannot afford to pay for medical treatment, including prescription medication. If you don’t have enough money to pay for drugs or other treatment, make sure your attorney and the SSA know this. A word of warning – if you tell the SSA that you do not have the money for consistent medical care, but your records or other testimony show that you went on vacation, you will have a difficult time winning your claim.
  • Following prescribed treatment is against your religion. Make sure that the SSA knows your religious identification and provide documentation that shows following medical advice would violate your religion.
  • You have a justified reason to think that your doctors prescribing the wrong treatment, but you cannot afford to seek treatment elsewhere. The SSA may reach this conclusion by asking its medical experts to opine on the reasonableness of prescribed treatment.

What if the SSA finds that certain medical treatment would resolve your severe medical impairments, but you don’t have a treating physician? The SSA should not deny your claim because you lack a treating physician, so long as you can show that you’ve tried to get free care but can’t. Most big cities have free or reduced cost health care options. But if you don’t have transportation, or live in a rural area, these programs may not be much help.

Reason 6: Your Alcoholism or Drug Addiction is a Material Factor in Your Disability

The SSA will deny benefits if your alcoholism or drug addiction is a material contributing factor to your disability. If you have a history of drug or alcohol use, and are claiming disability based on a mental disorder, then it is important that you get a written statement from your treating physician on whether your alcohol or drug use is a contributing factor with your severe medical impairments.

Drug or alcohol use will be considered relevant to your disability claim if:

  • The SSA finds you have a severe medical impairment that prevents you from performing work based on your age, education, and past work experience;
  • Your medical evidence shows that you have a drug or alcohol problem; and,
  • Your medical evidence satisfies the requirements for drug addiction or alcoholism in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). This requires more than just a statement from you that you drink too much or have a drug problem.

Drug or alcohol use will be found relevant and material if the SSA finds that:

  • You would not have any of your current physical and mental limitations if you stopped using alcohol or drugs; or
  • Your remaining physical and mental limitations, should you stop using drugs or alcohol, would not be disabling.

But what if your alcohol use from years ago has caused cirrhosis of the liver that is disabling. If your alcohol or drug use caused a permanent impairment that remains even though you stopped using years ago, that impairment may still serve as a basis for finding you are entitled to SSDI or SSI benefits.

We'll Help Answer the Question, "Why Was My Social Security Disability Claim Denied?" - and Help You Get Approved

Call today if your Social Security Disability claim was denied for one of the reasons listed above, or any other reason. We help disabled adults and children across Virginia get the benefits they need.