How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

How many people are approved for disability the first time they apply? Statistics indicate that the national average for approval on initial disability claims is about thirty to thirty-five percent. The exact percentage varies by year and by state; however, this range has been fairly consistent for the last twenty years.

Reconsideration appeals also vary by year and state with some states (typically those in the southern U.S.) having some of the highest rates of denial at this level. In general, the reconsideration appeal always has a much lower rate of approval: averaging roughly fifteen percent, and ranging between 10 to 20 percent depending on the state in question.

The Social Security Disability process, it goes without saying, is a long and difficult one and it 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 be approved 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.

Don't get a generic statement from a doctor

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.

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.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

Tips for Getting Disability Approved
How Long Will It Take To Get Approved for Disability and what determines this?
Can you be approved for disability without having to go to a hearing?
How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?
How To Get Disability Through SSDI or SSI Approved
Is There A Way To Get Automatically Approved For SSI And Social Security Disability?
How Many Times Will Social Security Disability Deny You before You Get Approved for Disability?
What are the Odds or Chances of Being Approved for Disability?
How do you find out if a Social Security Disability claim has been approved or even denied?
Can You Get Approved For Social Security Disability if you do not take medication or go to a doctor?
What are my chances of being approved for disability benefits in North Carolina?
Applying for disability in Illinois
Disability Lawyers in Illinois
Will I qualify for disability Benefits in Illinois?

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.