What Percentage of SSD Appeals are Approved?

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What Percentage of SSD Appeals are Approved? 

You may know that the approval rate for Social Security disability (SSD) applications is low and that you may have to appeal–even appeal more than once–to receive the benefits you’re entitled to. You’ve probably heard that many applications that are denied at first are approved on appeal. If you’re applying for SSD, you may want a bit more information about what to expect at each stage of the process. 

SSD Approval Statistics by Appeal Level

In the most recent year reported by the Social Security Administration (SSA), 36.8% of SSD claims were approved at the initial application stage. That means 73.2% of applications were denied. Note, though, that the percentage of applicants approved on reconsideration isn’t based on that 73.2%. That’s because many SSD applicants make the mistake of giving up on their disability benefits after the first denial. 

A few years ago, The Urban Institute reported that fewer than half of those denied after the initial application didn’t request reconsideration. Unfortunately, those applicants will never know whether they would have been approved on reconsideration, or at the ALJ hearing level. Some may have reapplied, but that can delay benefits and mean losing out on benefits that might have accrued before the first denial. 

Reconsideration Statistics

Approvals at the reconsideration stage are relatively uncommon. In the most recent reported year, 13% of claims were approved on reconsideration. In some years, that number has been below 10%. There’s a good reason most claims are denied on reconsideration, though, and there may be something you can do about it. 

When an SSD applicant requests reconsideration, the claim is assessed again. A different decision-maker reviews the application and supporting materials and makes a fresh decision. But, they’re using the same criteria as the original decision-maker, and in most cases looking at the same information. Many don’t take advantage of the opportunity to provide additional supporting documentation when requesting reconsideration. Some simply don’t know what type of additional information would be helpful. Supplementing your application when requesting reconsideration may significantly boost your chances of approval at that stage. 

If your claim is denied at the reconsideration stage, you can continue the appeals process. But, the next step can take several months to well over a year. So, it’s in your best interest to make every effort to secure approval with your initial application or on reconsideration.

ALJ Hearing Statistics

If your claim is denied on reconsideration, the next step is to request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ hearing is a more extensive process than reconsideration and involves a hearing where you can present evidence and even call witnesses. 

The ALJ hearing presents a great opportunity but also requires careful preparation and a solid understanding of the process. In addition to being able to present your own witnesses and evidence, you will have the chance to question any witnesses the ALJ brings in. 

SSD applicants who persist to this point and beyond are much more likely to have their disability benefits approved. In the most recent year reported, more than 58% of those who saw the SSD appeals process through were ultimately approved. 

Why Appeal v. Reapply for SSD? 

Some people whose Social Security disability benefits claims are denied just let it go, thinking they can always reapply later. While that’s usually true, there are some significant downsides to restarting the process.

For example: 

  • A new application based on the same disability without anything new will likely be quickly denied
  • If your new application is denied, you will still have the full appeals process in front of you, but will have added 6-12 months to the timeline
  • If your new application is approved, you will lose out on any back benefits and retroactive benefits that might have accrued before the date of your original denial. 
  • You could lose your eligibility.

An SSD applicant may be granted retroactive benefits to the onset of the disability, up to 12 months before the application date.

If the application is ultimately approved, the recipient will get back benefits to the date of the application. Here’s an example of how not appealing promptly can impact benefits: 

Applicants A and B both became disabled on February 1, 2023. Both apply for SSD on January 1, 2024 and both receive denial notices on May 25. 

Applicant A requests reconsideration, and receives another denial on October 10, 2024. They appeal and are approved at the ALJ hearing on February 1, 2026. Back benefits will be paid from the date of the application–in this case, just over two years’ worth of benefits. Applicant A was also disabled for 11 months before applying. The five month waiting period will be deducted, and the applicant may also receive retroactive benefits for the remainder of the time between becoming disabled and applying. That’s an aggregate 30 months of retroactive and back benefits. 

Applicant B doesn’t appeal but reapplies on October 10, 2024. Since they didn’t appeal, the initial determination stands. That means it’s already been decided that Applicant B was not disabled as of the date of denial. That means even if the new application is successful, retroactive benefits are no longer available and back benefits will be counted from the date of the new application. In other words, even if B is approved, they will have lost many thousands of dollars in retroactive and back benefits. 

What Do SSD Approval Statistics Really Mean?

Remembering that “only 36.8% of SSD applicants are initially approved” does not mean “you only have a 36.8% chance of being approved at the initial application stage.”

Some applicants are denied for technical reasons, such as having insufficient work credits. Some truly don’t meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. Some fail to provide sufficient medical documentation or make the mistake of applying at a time when their income is over the threshold. 

Your chances of approval at every stage depend on a wide range of variables, from your age to your disability to how well your application or appeal is put together. Give yourself the best chance of approval by working with an experienced Social Security disability benefits advocate. At Disability Help Group, we’ve helped thousands of disabled workers and dependents pursue the benefits they deserve. We know the process and what type of documentation is required to prove your case. 

To learn more about how we can help, call (800) 800-3332 right now, or contact us here now.

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