Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

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 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.

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.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

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?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

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

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
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?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria