Social Security Disability Definitions
Social Security Disability and SSI Overview
The Requirements for Disability
Social Security Disability and SSI Applications
Tips and Advice for Disability Claims
How long does Disability take?
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Disability Denial
Disability Denials and Filing Appeals
Social Security Mental Disability Benefits
Disability Benefits offered through Social Security
Benefits through SSI disability
Disability Benefits for Children
Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify
Social Security Disability and Working
Winning your Disability Benefits
Social Security Back Pay and the disability award notice
Disability Lawyers and Hiring an Attorney
Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions
What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?
Social Security Disability SSI and Medical Evidence
Filing for Disability Benefits
Eligibility for Disability Benefits
SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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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
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions
Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The Disability Decision Process and What gets taken into Consideration | Getting Denied for Disability Benefits | Questions about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | Social Security Disability Hearings | Social Security Medical Examinations | Social Security SSI Doctors | Social Security Disability Representation | Social Security Disability SSI Reviews