Common errors made by Social Security in denying benefits

Like all large bureaucracies, the Social Security Administration makes mistakes. In our experience as Roanoke disability lawyers, the following mistakes commonly result in an erroneous denial of benefits:

  • Failing to consider all of your impairments;
  • Failing to consider all of your symptoms;
  • Underestimating the nature and impact of your pain (or other symptoms);
  • Overestimating your level of education;
  • Improperly evaluating the job duties and exertion level required by your past work; and
  • Improperly evaluating the limitations caused by your impairment and the impact of those limitations on your ability to work (i.e., your “residual functional capacity”).

Example: Overestimating your ability work

Let’s take a closer look at this common error. Your “residual functional capacity” or “RFC” is your ability to perform basic work-related functions – to walk, stand, sit, lift and carry, manipulate small objects, concentrate, etc. – in spite of the limitations caused by your impairment. Social Security uses “work levels” to classify a claimant’s RFC. For example, a claimant has the residual functional capacity for “medium” work if he is capable of “lifting no more than 50 pounds at a time, with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 25 pounds.” By comparison, a claimant has the residual functional capacity for “light” work if he is limited to “lifting not more than 20 pounds at a time, with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds.”

Social Security determines your RFC based on the medical evidence provided by your doctors. If this medical evidence is incomplete or inaccurate, then your claim for disability benefits may be denied based on an erroneous RFC determination. For example, if your medical records indicate that you cannot lift more than 50 pounds at a time, but fail to indicate that you cannot engage repetitive lifting of objects weighing more than a few pounds, then you will be erroneously categorized as capable of performing “medium” work.

Our Roanoke disability lawyers can help

As experienced Roanoke disability lawyers, we are able to quickly review your denial letter, pinpoint Social Security’s mistake, and take steps to correct it. Occasionally, the error is so obvious that we can rectify it and obtain an on-the-record favorable decision well in advance of your hearing date. Often, the error can be corrected by providing the decision-maker with additional medical evidence. In other cases, your testimony at your disability hearing will be the most effective way to bring the error to Social Security’s attention.

For more information about  the Social Security appeal process, I would recommend visiting attorney Fred Daley’s website.

Contact us

If your claim for Social Security disability benefits was denied, but you are unable to work because of a disabling physical or mental condition, your claim may have been denied in error. An experienced Roanoke disability lawyer can help you prepare a detailed and persuasive appeal. If you would like to meet with us to talk about your legal options, please use the Free Claim Evaluation form on this page to tell us about your situation, or call or email us directly. Be sure to bring your denial letter to our first meeting.

We wish you success.