How Social Security reviews an application in Massachusetts for Social Security disability benefits

Two Three and a half million people apply for Social Security disability and SSI disability each year. Most—almost two thirds nationally—are denied benefits initially. In Massachusetts, applications for disability benefits are approved a bit more often. However, those who stick it out through an appeal—called a reconsideration—and then a hearing with a Judge, do well. Almost two-thirds win! Approval success with a good disability attorney can be much higher.

Note: Here in Massachusetts we also have a state run disability program: Emergency Assistance to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC). It is for disabled people who are low income. It is run by the welfare department, now called the Department of Transitional Assistance. It is easier and much faster getting disability benefits through EAEDC. The benefits include food stamps and a bit of money. In 2010 the amount is about $303 a month. You can find out more about this program by going to this web site: and click on EAEDC

The initial decision: The person who decides whether you are disabled never meets you. This person works in a special office. For Western Massachusetts, that office is in Worcester and is called the Disability Determination Service. The decision is based on your medical records and perhaps an exam by a doctor chosen by Social Security. Social Security makes its first decision in about four to five months after you apply.

Normally, people who get disability benefits initially are those whose problems can be measured by medical tests. Pain, headaches, and mental illnesses usually can’t be measured, so people with these real problems are routinely denied benefits initially. If you lose, and you probably will, and you have these symptoms, you should appeal.

The reconsideration: Be prepared to fill out more paperwork. You will be denied again. Nationally, 875% of all reconsiderations are denied. The rate is better, but still miserable, here in Massachusetts.

The hearing: To request a hearing, you will need to fill out yet more paperwork. Then you will need to wait, sometimes for a year or more, for your hearing. At the hearing, the Judge meets with you and talks to you about your medical problems, your work history, and why you can no longer work well.

For information and tips about requesting reconsideration or an administrative hearing, see Advice for appealing and download my e-booklet, Helpful suggestions for appealing a denial.

Some reasons why Social Security disability claimants succeed at hearings in Massachusetts

  • A hearing is the only time the decision maker gets to meet you.
  • Most people hire an advocate, a disability lawyer. Social Security Administration statistics show higher rates of success with disability attorneys at every decision level. See: Why you should hire an attorney.
  • Successful claimants use the months of waiting to make sure their medical records document all their medical problems, not just the biggest one or two.

To learn more about disability hearings, review the articles in Your Disability Hearing.

Get assistance from an experienced Springfield Massachusetts disability attorney

If you live in Springfield or elsewhere in Western Massachusetts, call me. I answer questions. I can assist you with your claim for Social Security disability benefits. If you are not already represented by a Massachusetts disability attorney and want my evaluation, give me a brief description of your claim using the form to the right. Or you may e-mail or call my office at:

Jonathan Abbott
Massachusetts disability attorney

Licensed to practice law in Massachusetts since 1978

National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives Sustaining Member
National Association of Disability Representatives Member and 2006 Man of the Year

E-mail me
Toll-free: 888-277-7741
Phone: 413-253-0052
Fax: 413-253-0234

30 Boltwood Walk
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002

PO Box 2368
Amherst, Massachusetts 01004

Free Consultations and No Attorney’s Fee Unless You Win.

I will meet with you personally—in my office or your home.