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About 70 percent of all workers who apply for disability benefits are denied each year, in part because of the strict definitions and complicated application process, according to data maintained by the Social Security Administration. William Viner, Denver disability law attorney “People are getting denied wrongfully, all the time,” said Denver disability law attorney Will Viner. “It’s impossible for them to do the numbers that they are doing.” Social Security hearing offices received more than 188,000 requests for hearings between Sept. 30, 2017 and Jan. 26, 2018, according to the administration's hearing office workload data. For years, the agency has received a record number of hearing requests adding to the backlog, that has lead to longer and longer wait times. Viner provided this analogy: “Social Security Disability Insurance is kind of like car insurance – so you’ve been paying for car insurance your entire life and then one day a storm rolls through… and you call your insurance agent and say ‘hey, I’ve got a policy, I need some help,’ and they say ‘yep, I see you in our system, you’re insured and we’ll be right out… in about 3 years.’ As of January 2018, the 18-month average wait time affecting those in Denver was slightly longer than the national average. And once an applicant finally does get before a judge, he or she must wait another several months before the final decision is issued. Federal data shows about half of the judges' decisions overturn original decisions and are favorable for the disabled person. In an email, Cindy Malone, Social Security Administration spokeswoman for the Denver office, told 9Wants to Know: “many individuals who are initially denied benefits ultimately are found eligible. In many cases, the appeals process uncovers more detailed and complete medical evidence and sometimes individuals’ medical conditions deteriorate, which can lead to successful applications upon appeal.” Malone also stated in the email that it is a “common misconception that cases are routinely denied at the (disability determination services) level and only allowed at the Hearings Office Level,” and that the Social Security Administration Disability Quality Branch reviews a random selection of favorable and unfavorable determinations from each state.
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