denied social security disability application

Why Are Social Security Disability Claims Denied?

Getting the paperwork together to file a Social Security disability claim can be an aggravating and stressful process. To go through all of this only to find out your claim has been denied can be upsetting, to say the least. Unfortunately, it is a common experience. In fact, it is estimated that the SSA denies around 60 to 70 percent of initial disability claims received every year. While more people have success upon appealing the initial denial of the claim, it can take almost two or more years to successfully navigate the appeals process. The best-case scenario is that your claim is initially approved. Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent your claim from being initially denied. To find out how to accomplish this, it can be helpful to review some of the reasons why Social Security disability claims are often denied and work to avoid falling victim to these reasons.

Why Are Social Security Disability Claims Denied?

One common reason why Social Security disability claims are denied and a fairly easy one to avoid is improperly completing claim forms. There is a substantial amount of paperwork involved in the claims process. Be sure to take care, however, in completing these forms. Always be sure to review all forms prior to submission.

Lack of sufficient medical evidence to support your disability claim is also a common reason for claim denial. Medical evidence is critical to having your claim approved and it must be the right kind of evidence. Provide as much objective medical evidence of your disabling condition as possible. Go over the Blue Book with your doctor which outlines what tests and documentation you need for your disabling condition. Without concrete medical evidence, Disability Determination Services (DDS) will be forced to deny your claim.

Another common reason for claim denial and one that is easily avoidable is a failure to comply with a consultative exam. The SSA will sometimes request that a claim applicant undergo a consultative exam conducted by a third-party medical expert. Failure to attend this exam will likely lead to claim denial.

Sometimes, however, a claim is simply not strong enough to merit approval. The SSA may find that, while you may not be able to work at a job you recently held, there are other types of jobs you could still perform. To strengthen your claim and make your limitations clear to the SSA, it all goes back to giving enough of the right evidence. Again, medical evidence is critical. You can also complete the residual functional capacity form to detail how your disabling condition actually limits your ability to perform everyday activities as well as those tasks required of your current job. It can be difficult to adequately portray and encapsulate the full scope of your disability-related impairments, but it is also a critical part of successfully navigating the claims process.

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For help successfully navigating the disability claims process, Roeschke Law can help. Contact us today.

mental impairment

Intellectual Disability and the Death Penalty in Arizona

Q: Can an intellectually disabled person be executed in Arizona?

Phoenix disability benefits attorneys help those suffering from physical or mental impairments access the federal government benefits they deserve.

The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) offers two different disability benefits programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). While both programs’ qualifications criteria are very different, they do share the requirement that an applicant for benefits meet the federal government’s definition of being “disabled”. To qualify for disability benefits, the applicant must suffer from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and that has lasted, or is expected to last, for 12 months or more or will result in death.

The SSA uses its guide, the Blue Book – – a comprehensive list of physical and mental medical conditions– – and the patient’s personal medical history when determining whether a client is “disabled”. The list is comprehensive but not all-encompassing as conditions not included may still qualify an applicant for benefits.

As the evaluation process of mental illness is more subjective due to fewer standardized assessment tests, it can be more challenging for these applicants to meet the “disabled” criteria than their counterparts with physical impairments.

Reasons disability claims for mental illnesses get denied

Depending on the particular impairment and the applicant afflicted, the symptoms of some mental conditions may present inconsistently, giving the false impression of improvement. Other reasons mental illness-based claims may be denied include:

  • treatment notes by health mental health professionals lack sufficient detail of the condition;
  • failure of the applicant to follow doctor’s orders, such as taking prescribed medication for the mental condition;
  • lack of duration–where the mental condition hasn’t yet lasted (or is not expected to last) for at least one year.

Having the right attorney and doctor in your corner is important not only in securing disability benefits but, in the case of intellectual disabilities, it could literally save your life.

Recently, sentencing procedures in a high-profile Phoenix murder case made headlines. The dispute involved whether prosecutors could seek the death penalty against an intellectually disabled man charged with the murder of a convenience store clerk.   

According to the Arizona Supreme Court, the lower court judge—who barred the prosecution from seeking the death penalty on intellectual disability grounds– needed to look beyond just the man’s “life skills” and must now also “assess how [his] intellectual deficits affected his ability to meet the standard of personal independence and social responsibility for a person of his age and cultural background”. Defense counsel reportedly expressed confidence that their client will also satisfy these additional criteria and be exempt from execution.

Loved ones of those suffering from intellectual disabilities and/or mental illnesses may understandably worry about whether they could be subjected to the death penalty for committing an offense that they lacked the capacity to fully, or even partially, understand. The fact that the execution of intellectually disabled people has been barred since 2002 by the United States Supreme Court offers these loved ones some comfort, provided assessment criteria is met, of course.

If you or a loved one needs assistance with an initial application for disability benefits, appealing a denial of benefits, or have any other disability benefits law questions, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we represent disabled clients and their families throughout Arizona in all aspects of disability law.

special needs child doing schoolwork

How Fall School Options Are Challenging for Disabled Children

Q: What challenges may special needs children face this school year due to COVID-19 precautions?

The Social Security Administration offers two federal disability benefits programs – – Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). While both programs require applicants to satisfy the federal government’s definition of being “disabled”, each program has different qualifications beyond that. 

Applying for SSDI or SSI benefits

Generally, workers who become disabled pursue SSDI. SSI is a means-based program that does not require an applicant to have a work history, but rather requires them to be of extremely limited financial income and assets and to be of advanced age or disabled. Some people may be eligible for both SSI and SSDI. SSI benefits are often sought by those in the special-needs population. Examples of impairments that special needs applicants may suffer from include autistic disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disorders, and more. 

The special needs community has been particularly hard hit as a result of quarantine orders due to the novel coronavirus.

Those suffering from autism often have difficulty focusing on therapy, school, or work assignments without direct support to keep them or redirect them on task. They may be unable to sit and attend to a task without getting up and walking away. Many autistic children have sensory processing issues, focus issues like ADD or ADHD, OCD tendencies, oppositional or defiant behaviors and are known to have meltdowns when transitioning from a preferred activity to a less desirable one– and they often struggle and regress when their routines are disrupted. 

When many schools hastily switched to online learning last spring, many special needs students and their parents were stressed-out by the change. In-person services like physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy were either no longer available or done over online platforms like Zoom– a poor substitute to live sessions. 

Parents, generally not teachers themselves, were trying to work from home and were charged with becoming special ed teachers and therapists for their children. Trying to adjust to their own new remote work situation while trying to support their children’s educational goals, was extremely stressful for many special-needs parents and their kids. 

School reopening plans for the fall differ not only state-by-state but school district by school district. Some schools will offer five days of in-person instruction while others are remaining remote and still others are offering hybrid options where children have in-person instruction two or three days a week and online for the alternate days.

How New School Safeguards May Challenge Special Needs Children

It is difficult for parents to know what to do. On the one hand, children need in-person services and the socialization that comes with in-person instruction. But many special needs children don’t understand or won’t comply with rules regarding facemasks and handwashing and social distancing. These are challenging times for special needs children and their parents as well as the general population. 

If you need help applying for SSI benefits for a loved one or yourself, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona in all areas of disability law.

Older woman upset about being scammed

3 Things You Should Know About Widow and Widower Benefits

While losing a loved one is never easy, losing a spouse can be particularly heart-wrenching. For many Arizona widows and widowers, their emotional stress is often compounded by financial worries. 

It might be reassuring to know that the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides payments to eligible widows and widowers of decedents who qualify for benefits. So, how do Arizona survivors collect SSA benefits after the death of a spouse? 

Phoenix, Arizona disability attorneys help survivors navigate government bureaucracy and collect SSA benefits. To start, there are a few things you should know about widow and widower benefits.

1. Are You Eligible to Collect Your Deceased Spouse’s Social Security benefits?

Determining SSA widow or widower benefit eligibility is the first step to collecting your deceased spouse’s SSA benefits. Specific eligibility requirements should be reviewed with your disability attorney, but are generally affected by factors of age, length of marriage to the decedent, current marital status, and whether or not you are a disabled widow or widower. 

2. When Should You Begin Receiving Widow/Widower Payments?

Because Social Security benefits increase over time, many survivors delay filing for benefits until necessary. While it’s best to consult with your disability lawyer and financial advisor regarding your circumstances, here are some factors worth considering:

Whose Social Security payments will be higher, yours or your spouse’s? 

You are only allowed to draw one Social Security payment at a time. Accessing the lower payout first will allow the higher amount to continue to increase before you switch to draw against it.

Your current tax situation 

Consult your accountant about the costs of collecting Social Security in Arizona, your tax bracket, or while you’re still working.  

Need and timing

Forgoing smaller payments now for larger payments later doesn’t always pay off. If you need immediate income, don’t wait. 

Disabled widows/widowers must be at least 50 years old, but not yet 60 to begin collecting payments. Time it right.

Note: Survivor benefits start from the time of application and are not retroactive to the date of death. 

Contacting a disability attorney as early as possible will help you jumpstart the process to claim allowable benefits. 

3. How Much Will You Receive from Your Deceased Spouse’s Social Security? 

SSA survivor benefits are based on the amount the decedent would have received or was receiving at the time of death. Actual payouts depend on the survivor’s age and individual circumstances:


Widows/widowers claiming survivor benefits before retirement age (at age 60, or 50 if disabled), will receive between 71.5 percent and 99 percent of the benefit payment. Widows/widowers of full retirement age are eligible for 100 percent of the benefit payment. 

Collective benefits

The SSA limits Social Security benefits drawn against a single worker’s work credits. If a family’s cumulative benefits exceed the limit, individual payments will be reduced. 

Caring for a child

If you are a widow or widower caring for a disabled child or child under the age of 16, you may apply at any age and receive up to 75 percent of your deceased spouse’s Social Security benefit. 


Widows/widowers who remarry before age 60 lose benefit eligibility. Those who remarry at age 60 or older (age 50 or older for disabled), or whose subsequent marriage ends, can collect survivor benefits. 

Why You Need A Phoenix, AZ Disability Lawyer

Filing a claim for SSA widow/widower benefits can feel complicated, especially during a time of loss. You need caring and sound advice from someone familiar with navigating Social Security programs. 

When you work with an experienced Phoenix, AZ disability lawyer, you will have an advocate guiding you through the entire process. If your claim is denied, you will need a skilled disability attorney to handle the complex appeals process.

Contact our office today to speak with a compassionate and knowledgeable Phoenix, AZ disability attorney about your claim. Together, we can get you the SSA benefits you deserve.

Mother and disabled son sitting on the couch.

How to Talk Supportively to Disabled People

Q: How can I avoid offending disabled people in conversation?

Some people are born with a mental or physical condition that is qualifying for Social Security disability benefits. Others may be born without a disability but then gradually or suddenly become disabled at some point in their life through an accident or illness.  

In either case, applying for Social Security disability benefits through either (or occasionally both) of the two federal government programs offered by the Social Security Administration can help alleviate the financial burden. 

Arizona disability benefits attorneys know that most benefits recipients would prefer having their health back and going to work rather than staying on disability–not only to have greater financial income, but to feel they are making a contribution to their communities. Relying on disability benefits is nothing to be ashamed of, but many recipients have issues with their pride and look forward to possibly returning to work if they recover. 

As a society, people often make comments toward people who are members of groups that are different than their own. While often the comments are not meant in a derogatory way, the misguided attempts at empathy or support can be upsetting if taken the wrong way. If you haven’t walked in the person’s shoes, you can’t understand their experience. 

What not to say regarding disability

Avoid trying to downplay someone’s disability as if it’s just a weakness in a skill-set. Don’t say that everyone has some type of disability. A disability is not the same as a weakness. If they have to plan their day around it and need accommodations, it should be legitimatized. It’s better to acknowledge that you don’t understand their experience and then ask them to explain what it’s like to navigate life with their disability and ask if there’s a way you can help them.

Attempting to build-up a person with physical disabilities by pointing out their mental or intellectual strength is condescending. It’s also offensive to those with intellectual disabilities due to its implication that having a mental disability is worse than having a physical one. Instead, discuss and congratulate them on their specific intellectual accomplishments and show interest in what they do. 

Avoid giving unsolicited advice about their disability especially when you don’t know how the person will take that advice. It can be upsetting because it assumes the disabled person couldn’t or didn’t think of it themselves–and it’s even more annoying if the same tip is repeatedly offered. Chances are they already investigated the information you want to share. Unsolicited advice feeds into the disturbing stereotype that disabled people are helpless– so tread carefully when offering it and ask if they would like to hear about a suggestion before just blurting it out.

Don’t assume that you understand the discrimination of ableism just because you’ve experienced discrimination in a different protected group such as race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. 

If you need assistance with an initial application for Social Security disability benefits or with appealing the denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help. Contact us today for a free consultation

From our office in Phoenix, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona. We help them access the disability benefits they need and deserve so they can focus on healing. It’s all we do.

Disabled man with a mask on to prevent COVID-19

Facemasks, COVID19, and the Disabled Community

Q: What challenges do the disabled face regarding facemasks?

Disabled folks face many challenges—from applying for Social Security disability benefits in Arizona, to adjusting to or living with limited income, to navigating life in communities that may not be fully accessible to them, or living isolated lives. 

The COVID-19 lockdowns gave some non-disabled people—especially those who suffered unexpected financial losses– a small taste of how difficult long-term living in isolation with financial insecurity can be. Now that some areas are lifting restrictions and “opening up”, conflicts are arising regarding what the “new normal” should be with regard to safety in public places—and some members of the disabled community may get caught in the crossfire.

Across America, people are divided on the issue of wearing facemasks in public to help prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus. One camp believes wearing a mask is not only the law in many places, but also the responsible thing to do in order to protect each other from contracting the highly-contagious virus. The other camp sees America as the “Land of the Free”, resists restrictions on our freedoms, and views mask-wearing mandates as “tyrannical” and overreaching. Depending on the area and the ordinances imposed, many businesses won’t allow people to enter without a mask—and some others reportedly won’t allow entry to those who do wear one. 

How has the mask debate impacted the disabled community?

Some situations where the wearing of a mask may be difficult for those with disabilities include those with: 

  • respiratory disabilities including conditions like asthma, cystic fibrosis and COPD;
  • intellectual or cognitive impairments like autism, Alzheimer’s disease and other learning disabilities or sensory processing disorders where it may be frightening, uncomfortable, or confusing to enforce mask-wearing;
  • facial skin disorders where masks may cause or increase pain or irritation;
  • hearing impediments or deafness where facemasks without transparent windows impair the ability to lip-read and otherwise communicate.

If disabled people with the above conditions were to go out publicly without a mask, they could be ostracized, criticized, otherwise shamed, or even harmed. And many medical conditions that qualify for Social Security disability benefits are precisely what make the disabled population vulnerable to COVID-19 and reliant on the vigilance and cooperation of others to wear facemasks to protect them.

If you need assistance applying for Social Security disability insurance, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

From our offices in Tempe, Tucson, and Phoenix, we represent disabled victims and their families throughout Arizona to get them the disability benefits they deserve. 

Why Would SSI Be Denied?

Why Would SSI Be Denied?

Applicants for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) generally expect to be approved for benefits. That is why they applied in the first place, after all. Sometimes, however, SSI applicants are denied. Reasons for a denial vary and can sometimes fall beyond the control of the applicant. In other cases, the applicant may have done something to avoid the denial. Review some of the common reasons for SSI denial and, when possible, work to avoid the common pitfalls that land people with a notice of denial.

Why Would SSI Be Denied?

One of the primary reasons for an SSI application denial is because the applicant earns too much income. SSI is a benefit program designed specifically for low-income individuals. Even more specifically, SSI is for low-income individuals who are unable to make more than the substantial gainful activity level.

One of the other central qualifications for SSI benefits is that your impairment which prevents you from substantial gainful activity last for a minimum of one month or will result in your death. Blindness is the only exception for this requirement. If your impairment will not last at least a month, then SSI will be denied. This, of course, is out of your control. However, if your impairment will last at least a month, but there is a failure in the medical evidence to support this assertion, then your SSI will be denied. The medical evidence, your medical records, must support the fact that your impairment will last at least a month in duration or eventually prove fatal. Your doctor needs to put in the records that your impairment prevents you from working and meets the durational requirements for SSI.

In some cases, an individual is denied SSI simply because the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Disability Determination Services (DDS), the agency tasked with determining medical eligibility for SSI benefits, cannot find you. You need to be sure to provide them with up to date contact information and respond to requests for scheduling examinations as well as complying with other requests. In addition to communication failures resulting in SSI denials, uncooperative applicants are also at risk of being denied benefits. You must comply with records requests and other SSI application requirements. Refusal to comply with SSA requests may very well lead to a denial of SSI benefits.

You may also be denied SSI benefits if you fail to comply with follow up with therapy prescribed by your doctor. While there may be legitimate excuses for failing to go to prescribed therapy, it can also be a valid basis for denying SSI benefits. Your SSI benefits may also be denied if your disability is due to drug addiction or alcoholism. While you may struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction and still qualify for SSI, a DDS medical consultant must decide whether or not the SSA would find you disabled even in the event you stopped use of drugs or alcohol

Social Security Income Attorney

Roeschke Law is committed to helping people access critical disability benefits. We are here to provide legal support to you throughout the process. Contact us today.

Disability Benefits claim

Hiring a Disability Benefits Law Attorney

Q: What should I look for when hiring an Arizona disability benefits attorney?

Most people go through their working years focusing on when they will retire and begin collecting those Social Security retirement benefits that were accruing over the decades through their payroll deductions. But sometimes life cuts that plan short unexpectedly. 

At any moment, regardless of age, someone could find themself mentally or physically disabled and unable to work due to an accident, illness, or injury. If they are no longer able to work, they may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, or “SSDI”, benefits. 

Sobering Disability Benefits Statistics

While many people think this won’t happen to them, these sobering disability benefits statistics may suggest otherwise: 

  • 8 million adults can’t work due to a disability
  • 475,000 Americans become totally disabled each year
  • 46% of mortgage foreclosures are due to a disability
  • an application for benefits takes an average of nine months
  • more than 75% of initial applications are denied.

In addition to dealing with the physical pain and/or stress of a disability and the financial fallout and fear that comes with it—especially if the disability was sudden onset– the complex disability benefits application process is too much for many people to handle on their own. That’s why many people seek a skilled Arizona disability benefits attorney to handle the initial application or appeal a denial of disability benefits. 

What should I look for in a disability benefits attorney?

Specialization in the area of disability benefits law, ideally to the exclusion of other areas of practice. You don’t want a dabbler. 

Experience and a proven track record of success in disability benefits law. Someone may specialize in only this field, but if they just started out, you may not want them learning on your case. Testimonials are often helpful.

Credentials count, too. Membership in Social Security disability law organizations, like the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) give clients added security that the attorney knows their stuff. 

If you or a loved one need assistance with a disability benefits application or an appeal of an initial denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Tempe, Tucson, and Phoenix, we help disabled clients and their families throughout Arizona access the Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits they need and are entitled to, so they can focus on healing and get on with their life.

Man filing for unemployment benefits while on SSD.

Can I Collect Unemployment If I Was Fired While on Disability?

Having disability insurance can provide critical compensation while you are unable to work. Whether it be short term or long term, disability insurance will pay a portion of income for a set period of time. This can alleviate much of the financial pressure those on disability leave may face. While disability insurance serves an important purpose, it is only to help cover part of your income while you are unable to work. It does not protect your job. There are some federal and state laws in place that will, in certain instances, protect employees on disability from losing their jobs. Whether your job will be protected by these laws, however, will depend on other factors such as whether or not you qualify for the protections and how long the protections last. In any event, should you be terminated from your job while on disability leave, it is important to understand your options. For instance, you will most likely want to pursue the possibility of collecting unemployment should you find yourself in this situation.

Can I Collect Unemployment If I Was Fired While on Disability?

It is possible for a person who was fired while on disability to go on to collect unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefit laws, however, are consistent across all 50 states in requiring that a benefit applicant be not only physically capable of working, but also available for duty and actively interviewing for jobs. This means that, as long as you remain unable to perform your job due to disability, you will be unable to collect unemployment benefits.

People who are terminated while on short term disability leave, however, will likely be eligible for unemployment benefits as soon as they recover from their temporary disability. Those who are fired while on long-term disability, however, usually suffer from a permanent medical condition from which they may never recover enough to be able to go back to work. In these cases, unemployment benefits are not going to be an option. As long as you remain unable to return to work, you will not be approved for unemployment benefits.

If you are terminated while on disability, you may also want to see whether your rights were violated when your employer fired you form your job. Some federal and state return to work laws provide protections for qualified employees of covered employers. These return to work laws may protect your job while you are on disability leave or shortly after you return to work post-disability leave. For instance, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), is a federal return to work law providing protections for temporary disability. FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid job protection while eligible employees, working for employers covered by FMLA are on disability leave. Furthermore, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that has return to work provisions to provide protections for employees on disability leave.

Disability Attorney

Being on disability leave, even when receiving disability benefits, can be a time of uncertainty and anxiety. Waiting to recover and not knowing about your job situation when you are able to return to work can be overwhelming. Know your disability rights. Know your legal options. For disability questions, Roeschke Law can help. We are here to support you in any way we can. Contact us today.

Home office for disabled person working remotely.

Post-Pandemic Remote Work Options for the Disabled

Q: Will disabled people benefit from remote work opportunities after the pandemic?

One possible benefit that could result after the coronavirus global pandemic resolves is that the world will embrace the new reality of working from home. This would be a wonderful thing for many people – especially the disabled.

Disability attorneys of Arizona help those who are overwhelmed and don’t know how to get disability benefits in Arizona.

The process is complex and time-consuming and while it’s possible to submit an application without the guidance of a skilled disability benefits attorney, the reality that 2/3 of initial applications are denied leads many applicants to trust an attorney when applying for disability benefits.

How to choose the right disability benefits program

In a nutshell, the Social Security Administration administers two different disability benefits programs. Social Security Disability Insurance “SSDI” is for applicants who have previously worked and paid into Social Security through payroll deductions prior to becoming disabled. Supplemental Security Income “SSI” does not require work credits, but is a means-based program for applicants with extremely limited income and assets.

Qualifying for disability benefits under either program requires satisfying the government’s definition of being disabled as well as other requirements that are individual to each program.

Many disabled people are able to work–or would be able to return to work–with the right accommodations. Before the pandemic, many employers did not embrace the idea of having their workforce working from home. With no other choice but to adapt to working remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown, employers will hopefully realize the benefits to their businesses and their employees—both disabled and non-disabled – and continue to offer work from home possibilities even after the pandemic is over.

Depending on the nature of the business, costs of operating a brick and mortar business could be reduced. Cutting commuter costs and time can increase employee appreciation, loyalty, and productivity. Eliminating the transportation-related barrier to employment by allowing remote work could be a game-changer for the disabled community.

Sometimes the “last hired and first fired”, disabled workers may still find it challenging to obtain a new position during the expected high unemployment rate and post-pandemic economic downturn. But remote work options may help even the field.

If you need assistance applying for disability benefits or appealing the denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we help disabled people and their families in all aspects of disability law. It’s all we do.