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Chances of Winning Disability Benefits

disability benefits approval

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

SSDI Win Rate is 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. 


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 disability claimant who do not follow through with their claim.  Many people apply for SSDI 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.  \

Outcomes of Applications for Disability Benefits

(Source: SSA 2019 Annual Report, released October 2020)

YearTotalPending Decision (EOY)Technical DenialsMedical DenialSubsequent Non-Medical DenialAwardsSubsequent DenialsAward Rate (%)Allowance Rate (%)

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August 30, 2021

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.


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