Has your Alaska Social Security disability claim been rejected?

The Social Security disability evaluation process is heavily regulated, complex, and often unkind to applicants. Social Security disability applicants from Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, and throughout Alaska often say to me, “I’ve tried, but I just can’t work. Why did the Social Security Administration deny my application for disability benefits?”

The short answer is that an Alaska state agency adjudicator found that your application and medical records did not show that you meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled.”

Recommended article: Alaska SSI explained.

Why your Alaska Social Security disability application may not have shown that you are disabled

The term “disability” is defined by the Social Security Act as an inability “to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

More specifically, the Social Security Administration will find that you have a disability only if your impairments are so severe that you cannot do your previous work or, taking into account your age, education and experience, “any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.” Work “exists in the national economy” if it “exists in significant numbers, either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.”

Your age, education, and experience count

The concept of vocational adaptability affects the determination of whether you are found to have a disability. Older, less-educated people with little work experience are not as adaptable to job changes as younger, better-educated people with work experience.

For claimants under 50, you generally have to prove that you cannot do an easy sit-down job or even a job where you are allowed to alternate between sitting and standing during the workday.

For claimants 50 through 54, you generally have to prove that you cannot do “light” work, such as standing or walking most of the day and lifting up to 20 pounds. Even though you might still be able to do a sedentary job, you can still be found disabled.

For claimants 55 or older, you generally have to prove that you cannot do “medium” work, such as standing or walking for most of the day, frequently lifting 25 pounds and occasionally lifting up to 50 pounds. But you can be capable of doing light work and still be found disabled.

The Social Security Administration’s disability determination is hypothetical. The real-world issues that concern you do not concern the Social Security Administration. For example, it is irrelevant to the Social Security Administration that:

  • You do not want to work in a particular job
  • There is no work to be had in your local area
  • The economy is in a down-cycle
  • You are not able to get work
  • Employers would not hire you
  • The industry in which you work has undergone technological changes

The Social Security Administration does not ask the question “Are you able to find work?” Rather, in determining your disability status, the Social Security Administration will ask, “Hypothetically speaking, is there a job you are capable of performing?”

How to use this Alaska Social Security disability website

Please use this website as a place to go for detailed and reliable answers. Despite the many questions that arise with Social Security disability, Alaska Social Security disability claimants have few places to go for answers. I designed this 100-page website to fill that void, no matter what stage of the process you are in. I recommend starting with these articles and videos:

  1. 9 tips for applying provides suggestions that come from decades of working with claimants on their cases.
  2. Advice for appealing a denial walks you step-by-step through filing your appeal.
  3. Appealing a Denial of Benefits, my free e-booklet, provides additional tips. See the top right corner of this page.
  4. My video “How the Judge Determines Disability” provides a verbal explanation of what you and your disability attorney will need to prove at the hearing.
  5. The Library section below entitled “Applying for disability benefits when you have ____” digs deep into the proof requirements for specific impairments, and includes valuable medical opinion forms for your doctor.

How an Alaska Social Security disability attorney can help

Across the country about two-thirds of the people who apply for Social Security disability will be denied by the Social Security Administration, and the denial rates here in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and throughout Alaska are similar. However, more than one-half of Alaska Social Security disability claimants who appeal the denials of their claims will ultimately be awarded benefits.

I can help you with the three tasks that are required to prove your denial was erroneous: (1) creation of an effective theory of your case, (2) assembly of medical evidence consistent with that theory, and (3) persuasive testimony at a hearing before an administrative law judge.

If your application has been denied and you want my assistance, please provide a brief description of your claim using the form to the right, and I will respond promptly.

Or you may contact me at:


Alaska Social Security disability attorney

Serving Social Security disability claimants in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau and throughout Alaska

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