Spotlighting the Barriers Social Security Disability Applicants Face in an Increasingly Adversarial System

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An article in today’s Washington Post exposes some of the deep structural barriers faced by applicants for disability benefits in the Social Security system. Rising rates of initial denials, quota systems increasing the likelihood that legitimate claims are denied, large numbers of denials remanded on appeal only to be denied again—the picture that emerges shows a system stacked against low-income disabled applicants, who sometimes wait years through cycles of denials and appeals on the basis of decisions that explicitly diminish the role of medical experts in favor of SSA quotas.

What the article’s author characterizes as “an unmistakable shift to an adversarial disability system” is one of the reasons the need for legal representation for SSI/SSDI applicants continues to grow. As BayLegal Regional Managing Attorney Steve Weiss puts it in the article, ““Some of them just dig in and say, ‘I’m going to find a way to deny this claim again,’” and increasingly the federal judges who hear appeals of denials are agreeing, finding basic errors of fact, inaccurate assessments of applicants’ ability to work, and disregard for medical evidence.