Here are the ten most common reasons why a claim for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) may be denied on appeal, either at an administrative hearing or in Court, as identified in an article by a Social Security attorney in Decatur, GA with 30 years of SSA experience. The article was published in the January 2009 Edition of the NOSSCR Social Security Forum (Website: National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives)

  1. Failure to formulate a complete and detailed theory of the case, covering ALL FIVE steps of the sequential evaluation.
  2. Failure to ask for the Department of Transportation (DOT) codes for all jobs mentioned at the hearing, including past relevant work (PRW).
  3. Failure to prove the specific functional limitation(s) precluding past relevant work, and to verify which work is PRW by verifying recent earnings at the level of substantial gainful activity (SGA), as well as duration satisfying the specific vocational preparation (SVP) requirement.
  4. Failure to get claimant testimony identifying functions necessary for past relevant and other work the claimant can no longer do, and why.
  5. Failure to get treating physician opinion(s) showing that the claimant cannot do functions required for past relevant and other work, and why.
  6. Failure to find evidence which could give rise to negative inferences, and show why they do not disprove disability.  This includes statements like “Needs work excuse” or “May be engaged in drug-seeking” in medical records, post-alleged onset date earnings, etc.
  7. Failure to present hypothetical questions showing that each disabling limitation precludes work.  If the claimant describes three symptoms which individually preclude work, each should be presented separately to the Vocational Expert (VE) so that all must be rejected to deny.
  8. Failure to get consultative examinations when required. The burden of proving disability is on the claimant, not the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
  9. Failure to get school records.  There is no evidence with as high a cost/benefit ratio.
  10. Failure to establish limitations on admitted activities, allowing the ALJ to compile an unchallenged laundry-list of activities the claimant has done.  When claimants say they read novels, find out how long it takes and whether they remember what they read.  If they go fishing, find out how long and often.  Prepare for this by comparing the difference between their current life and their pre-impairment life.

If you give attention to each of the above issues, you will substantially increase your odds of winning, both at the hearing and beyond.