Beaumont, TX (PressExposure) June 11, 2009 -- Results were released Tuesday of a survey of more than 200 Social Security Attorneys nationwide, which revealed that one of the most important factors in determining whether or not a disabled person will be approved for Social Security benefits is not something that would normally make the top of a list of possible reasons. As surprising as it sounds, a disability claim may be held hostage by nothing more than where the claimant lives.
The survey, reported by PR Newswire, revealed major differences in approval rates for Social Security disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits comparing similar claimants with similar conditions and educational background across different geographic areas of the country. The study further revealed that geography also plays a significant role in the amount of the back pay awarded by the administrative law judge.
When the geographic variable was removed the approval rates and award amounts fell back within reasonable averages when compared against one another.
Possible Causes: The study organizers indicated that the disparate results are most likely caused by the differing attitudes and views of the various judges that hear these types of cases. However, there are other theories as to why the results are so different from one location to another.
Samuel Packard, a Social Security attorney for Packard LaPray, doesnât completely agree. "Typically, the amount of pack pay awarded depends on the amount of time a person has to wait before they have a hearing with the judge. As a result, if a certain geographic location has a long processing time before hearings are held, then claimants that live in that area will typically be awarded more back pay," he stated.
When asked to next consider possible causes of disparity in overall approvals, Packard continued by stating, "A high percentage of denials are not based on whether the claimant is actually disabled, but rather on the amount of medical treatment the claimant could have received that would have proved their medical condition. As a result, people who live in geographic locations that offer health care to those who are indigent or otherwise financially destitute have a higher chance of showing the judge that they are in fact disabled."
What Can Be Done?
While these factors may appear to be outside the control of claimants and their attorneys, that isnât always the case. Many Social Security lawyers agree that continued, regular visits to the doctor during the life of the claim can help overcome the influencing factors of geography in determining approval rates and award amounts in disability claims.
Statistics also indicate that claimants who are represented by experienced Social Security attorneys have a much higher approval rate at hearings than those who simply choose to represent themselves. A claimantâs representative will help ensure that medical care and continuous updates to the medical record by doctors and other qualified health professionals so that the record does not become bare leading up to the hearing.