Why Is It So Hard to Get My Disability Approved? Understanding the Challenges of Navigating the SSDI and SSI Systems

Why Is It So Hard to Get My Disability Approved? Understanding the Challenges of Navigating the SSDI and SSI Systems

Posted by Derek Cervoni on Jun 1, 2024 8:00:00 AM

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can often feel like navigating a corn maze wearing a blindfold. It's filled with bureaucratic hurdles and confusing legalities. Many ask, "Why is it so hard to get my disability approved?" This blog explores the common challenges faced during the disability claim process and offers insight into why these obstacles exist. 

1. Strict Eligibility Requirements

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has stringent criteria for what it considers a disability. To qualify for benefits, an individual must have a disability that significantly impairs their ability to perform any substantial gainful activity (SGA) and is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.

The SSA uses a medical guide known as the Blue Book to determine if an individual's medical condition is severe enough to warrant disability benefits. Many applications fail because the disability does not meet the Blue Book's strict criteria or because adequate medical evidence is not provided.

2. Complexity of Medical Documentation

One of the biggest reasons for getting disability benefits denied is the lack of comprehensive and detailed medical documentation. Applicants must provide extensive medical records that diagnose the condition and illustrate how it impacts their daily functions and ability to work. Many claims are denied due to insufficient medical evidence or documentation that adequately conveys the severity of the condition. Gathering this documentation can be challenging, especially for those dealing with severe health issues.

3. Procedural Delays

The disability application process is often lengthy, sometimes taking several months or even years to complete. The backlog of pending applications can lead to significant delays in processing times. Additionally, procedural requirements, such as the need for multiple reviews and the slow exchange of information between medical providers and the SSA, further contribute to delays. For many applicants, these delays can be discouraging and financially draining.

4. High Rate of Initial Denials

Statistically, many disability claims are denied at the initial application stage. This high denial rate is often the result of various factors, including incomplete application forms, lack of sufficient medical evidence, and failure to comply with SSA's process. Many applicants need to be made aware of how important each piece of documentation is or need to fully understand the legal definitions used by the SSA to evaluate claims.

5. The Need for Appeals

Due to the high rate of initial denials, many claimants find themselves in the appeals process, which can be even more complex and demanding than the initial application. The appeals process may involve several levels, including reconsideration, a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, a review by the Appeals Council, and possibly a federal court review. Each stage requires meticulous preparation and a deep understanding of legal and medical standards, which can be a formidable challenge without legal assistance.

6. Variability by State and Jurisdiction

Disability approval rates vary significantly by state and individual SSA offices within states. Differences in how local offices interpret SSA guidelines and the subjectivity of some judgments, especially in cases where the disability is not clearly defined or is based on symptoms like pain and fatigue, contribute to variability in approval rates.

7. Psychological and Emotional Factors

The process of applying for disability can be emotionally and psychologically taxing. Applicants often deal with significant health issues and the stress of financial uncertainty. The intrusive nature of the disability evaluation process, which often requires revealing detailed personal medical information, can add to the stress.


The journey to obtaining SSDI or SSI benefits is fraught with challenges that can make the process appear daunting and inaccessible. Understanding these challenges can help applicants better prepare for what lies ahead. If you have been denied an SSI or SSDI claim, we are here to help. Contact us at Cervoni Disability Law, PLLC, and let us start the appeal process for you.

Topics: Disabilities