Chances of Winning Disability Benefits

Winning Disability Benefits

Written by TC Newlin

TC is a disability litigator and one of the managing partners in the Social Security Disability Department at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin. He has had the pleasure of helping thousands of people obtain the benefits they so desperately need.

August 30, 2021

The ultimate outcome of an initial application for either SSDI or SSI benefits has varied over time. 

Award Rate Declining Steadily

Unfortunately, the trend is not in our favor as the award rate has seen a steady decline from 2010-2018 having gone from 37.6% of all applicants approved to 28.8% of all applicants approved. 

Winning Disability Benefits

Technical Denials 

As you can see, the largest percent of denials come from a category referred to as “technical denials”.  The largest chunk of technical denials is going to be from claimant who do not follow through with their claim.  Many people apply and just disappear.  Some get frustrated with the process and quit while others do not know that they can appeal.  Persistence is likely the biggest factor in being awarded disability benefits.  

Another large portion of technical denials come from a group who are not eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits.  Whether that be a lack of work credits for SSD or too much income for SSI, these are the types of claimants who may be disabled, but are not eligible to take part in the SSDI or SSI programs

Subsequent Non-Medical Denials

These individuals go all the way through the process and are found to meet the medical definition of disability, but some thing happens that makes them ineligible for benefits after the fact.  This makes up a very small percentage of claimants, around 1%.  This pool of people is likely made up of technical denials that slipped through the cracks or maybe someone went back to work and failed to tell anyone.  Another class could be those that passed away during the process.  

Medical Denials 

Medical Denials make up another large portion of results from disability applications.  This pool of applicants made up 28% of the total initial applications.  An examiner or a judge looked at their case and determined that they did not meet the medical definition of disability.  

Awarded Disability Benefits

Out of all the claimants who file an initial application, 33% are ultimately awarded disability benefits.  The award could happen at the initial application stage, reconsideration, the hearing level or the appeals council.  If you remove the technical denials from the equation, just over 50% of disability applicants will go on to win disability benefits at some point throughout the process.  


Year Total Pending final decision Technical denials a Medical decisions Award rate d (percent) Allowance rate e (percent)
Denials Allowances
Medical Subsequent nonmedical b Awards Subsequent denials c
Year Total Pending final decision Technical denials  Medical Denial Nonmedical Denial Awards Subsequent denials  A  
2010 2,981,615 0 978,636 861,634 19,095 1,120,175 2,075 37.6 56.0
2011 2,952,087 0 981,942 873,114 20,767 1,074,202 2,062 36.4 54.6
2012 2,955,922 5,736 1,024,468 862,501 23,856 1,037,081 2,280 35.2 54.0
2013 2,790,682 7,084 971,054 822,424 25,000 962,875 2,245 34.6 53.2
2014 2,687,342 9,553 936,875 798,940 27,085 912,604 2,285 34.1 52.6
2015 2,547,664 18,731 904,375 750,823 27,645 843,783 2,307 33.4 52.1
2016 2,430,071 57,024 875,660 679,141 27,614 788,636 1,996 33.2 52.8
2017 2,298,554 161,965 833,404 591,132 29,646 680,446 1,961 31.8 52.4
2018 2,172,116 282,897 805,638 507,709 29,679 544,224 1,969 28.8 50.4
Percent of Applicants 2% 35% 28% 1% 33% 0% 33%

Do I Qualify for SSD Benefits?

Browse our SSDI resource library to find clear answers and determine if you qualify for up to $3,148/month in SSD benefits.

Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Browse our SSDI resource library to find clear answers and determine if you qualify for up to $3,148/month in SSD benefits.

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