People interested in applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits often wonder about the percentage of approvals for SSD cases. While it would be nice to have a simple average rate of how many cases are approved across the nation, that figure is not as helpful as one might think. This is because the amount of cases that are approved for SSD benefits varies greatly depending upon which level in the process the claim is reviewed. Because these numbers differ so much throughout the process, it is useful to learn about the approval rates for each level of review.

The initial application stage for SSD benefits

Over 2.3 million disability benefit applications are submitted each year. At this initial application stage, around 69 percent of applications move forward to the initial adjudicative level, while 31 percent are automatically given a technical denial. Of those that move to the initial adjudicative level, however, only around 38 percent of applicants are awarded benefits.


Those who are denied benefits at the initial application stage can appeal that decision by asking for reconsideration by their state’s disability determination services. This allows a different disability examiner and medical team to review an applicant’s initial application as well as any additional evidence introduced by the applicant. Of those who move forward to the reconsideration level, only around 10 percent of applicants are awarded benefits.

SSD Hearing by an administrative law judge

Applicants who were denied disability benefits at the reconsideration level can again appeal by requesting a hearing by an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ reviews evidence as well as witness testimony in determining whether an applicant deserves disability benefits. Overall, ALJs grant about 67 percent of the disability claims that are argued before them.

Review of a SSD case by an appeals council

Applicants who are denied benefits by an ALJ, can also request review in front of an appeals council. This council is made up of a team of ALJs that consider all of the applicant’s evidence as well as the first ALJ’s denial decision. Because the appeals council generally looks for flaws in the original ALJ’s decision making, the rate of approval at this level is very low. On average, at this level only 2 to 3 percent of disability cases are approved.

Review for SSD benefits in federal court

Applicants who are denied again and again can ultimately reach the final level of the review process by appealing and requesting review in federal court. While very few people push their cases to this final stage, doing so can pay off for applicants as over 80 percent of cases are approved at this level.

As you can see, the amount of SSD cases that are approved for benefits changes significantly as applicants move through the disability review process. The most important thing to remember is not to be discouraged by initial denials as appealing such decisions can eventually lead to the award of disability benefits.

Do you need help with your application for SSD benefits? Consider the law office of Neil H. Good for your representation. Contact us online for a free case evaluation or call #(847) 577-4476.