45% of Disability Applicants Denied and It’s Getting Harder

By the time Stephenie Hashmi was in her mid-20s, she had achieved a lifelong dream — she was the charge nurse of one of Kansas City’s largest intensive care units. But even as she cared for patients, she realized that something was off with her own health.

“I remember just feeling tired and feeling sick and hurting, and not knowing why my joints and body” hurt, she said. Hashmi was diagnosed with systemic lupus, a medical condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its tissues and organs. She’s had surgery and other treatments, but now, at age 41, Hashmi is often bedridden. She finally had to leave her job about six years ago, but when she applied to the Social Security Administration for disability benefits, she was denied.

In the U.S., fewer than half of people who apply for disability benefits — about 45 percent — are ultimately accepted, says Lisa Ekman with the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. Getting a hearing takes an average of nearly 600 days.

It may become even harder for people like Hashmi, whose disability is difficult to see or measure. This spring, the Social Security Administration introduced changes to fight fraud and streamline the application process, including a new rule that removes special consideration given to a person’s longtime doctor. Ekman said this is a mistake.

“Those changes would now put the evidence from a treating physician on the same weight as evidence from a medical consultant employed to do a one-time brief examination or a medical consultant they had do a review of the paper file and may have never examined the individual,” Ekman said. See more here:

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