Social Security Disability and SSI Questions and Answers
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
More questions about SSD and SSI
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
The Social Security disability process, for many, is a long and difficult one that does not always end in an approval of disability benefits. In fact, in all levels of the disability process, other than the administrative law judge hearing level, there is a greater likelihood of a disability claim denial than an approval. That is not to say that certain cases will not be approved the first time an individual applies for disability, but the simple truth is that most claimants will end up having to appeal.
Social Security disability examiners use a disability handbook that contains impairment listings for every body system. If an individual has a condition that meets or equals the criteria of any of the impairment listings, they will be medically approved for benefits.
Even if an individual does not meet or equal an impairment listing, they still may approved for disability the first time they apply for disability if they are able to get through the five-step sequential evaluation process that Social Security uses on every disability case decision. The five-step sequential evaluation process is as follows:
1. Determine if the disability applicant is working at an SGA level (a monthly earnings level that Social Security has determined to be self supportive). If an applicant is working and earning an SGA income, their disability claim will be denied no matter what disabling condition or conditions they have.
2. Determine if the individual has a medically determinable physical or mental condition, or conditions. This must be documented by objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source (certified or licensed physicians, psychologists, speech and language therapist, etc.).
3. Determine the severity of the disabling condition or conditions by evaluating medical evidence, functional questionnaires provided by the disability applicant and their third party contact person (the person named as the third party contact on the disability application), or even their treating physician.
Just a reminder, a generic “my patient is totally disabled” statement will carry no weight. If your treating physician provides a statement, they should address your limitations, diagnosis, prognosis, and your response to treatment.
Additionally, the objective medical evidence in your record should support the physician’s statement. At this point, if the individual does not meet or equal an impairment listing they must go through the next two steps that deal with an individual’s ability to perform work activity considering the limitations of their disabling condition or conditions.
4. The fourth step is an evaluation of the individual’s ability to perform any of their past work. If they are found able to perform their past work, their claim will denied at this point.
5. The last step of the sequential evaluation process is to determine if an individual is able to perform other work in the general economy when you consider their age, education, residual functional capacity, and past work activity.
It is at this point that an individual can be found disabled by Social Security if they are unable to meet or equal an impairment listing and they are not able to do any of their past work or do other work due to the restrictions caused by their disabling condition or conditions.
After seeing the sequential evaluation process, it may make more sense there would not be a lot of Social Security disability approvals the first time someone files for disability. Reconsideration appeals have an even less likelihood of resulting in an approved disability claim, because this appeal level only involves a review by another disability examiner at the same state disability processing agency.
Unless there was an error on the part of the disability examiner who made the initial disability decision, or there has been some new medical evidence that supports a finding of disability, it would be unlikely for the second examiner to arrive at a different decision.
So how many people are approved for disability the first time they apply? Well, statistics indicate that the national average for approval on initial disability claims is about thirty-five to forty percent. Reconsideration appeals have a much lower rate of approval: roughly fifteen percent.
However, for those who persist and file their second appeal (a request for a disability hearing), the rate of approval can be higher than sixty percent for those who have experienced representation to handle their claim and present their case to a federal administrative law judge.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions