Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are a lifeline for individuals who cannot work due to a medical condition or disability. SSDI and SSI are federal benefits programs that pay monthly benefits to applicants who meet each program’s eligibility criteria.
Social security disability benefits are paid to individuals whose disability or medical condition has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months and who cannot participate in substantial gainful activity. The Social Security Administration Blue Book lists more than 100 medical conditions that qualify individuals for SSD benefits, provided they meet the medical criteria for each condition. Applicants must also have enough work credits to be eligible for SSD benefits. Supplemental security income is paid to individuals who are low-income, blind, and/or disabled. There are no work credit requirements to be eligible for SSI; instead, applicants must meet strict income and resource limits to qualify for benefits.
Another factor that may determine whether your SSD benefits application is approved? Where you live. Although the average national approval rate for SSD benefits is 45.22%, some states fall well above, and others well below, that average.
States with the highest SSD approval rates
According to data for 2020, these are the top five states for SSD approvals, with each well above the national average:
- Kansas – 69.7%
- New Hampshire – 66.1%
- Wyoming – 60.3%
- Alaska – 59.9%
- Nebraska – 57.4%
Illinois ranks 21st on the list, with a 49.6% approval rating, almost 5% above the national average. Approval rates in other states where The Good Law Group handles disability cases are:
- New York – Ranked 13th at 51.5%
- Nevada – Ranked 35th at 42.9%
- Indiana – Ranked44th at 39.9%
- Florida – Ranked 46th at 39.1%
States with the lowest SSD approval rates
Eighteen states fall below the national average, with approval rates for the lowest five states at least 6% less than the national average. These states are:
- Florida – 39.1%
- Texas – 39%
- Mississippi – 38.5%
- Arizona – 37.1%
- Oklahoma – 33.4%
How to improve your chances of being approved for SSD benefits
Regardless of the SSD approval rate in your state, there are steps you can take to increase the chances that your benefits application is approved.
See your physician regularly
Not seeing a doctor or specialist can negatively affect your SSD application. The Social Security Administration expects that individuals who are ill or disabled and unable to work will seek treatment to, at minimum, alleviate their symptoms and improve their ability to function, even if that treatment doesn’t result in an ability to work. Failure to regularly visit your doctor or therapist, or to participate in a prescribed treatment plan, will cause them to think your condition isn’t severe enough to qualify for SSD benefits.
Failure to regularly see a doctor about your condition also means that your medical file will not paint a complete and accurate picture of your condition and how it affects your ability to work. Disability examiners use medical records to determine whether your condition meets their disability criteria; no doctor visits mean scant evidence to support your claim of disability.
Hire a social security disability attorney or advocate
It’s not necessary to hire a social security disability attorney or disability advocate to help you apply for SSD benefits. But doing so can greatly improve the likelihood that your benefits application is approved. Disability attorneys handle these cases every day. They are familiar with the SSA regulations, know what medical information is needed to support your claim of disability (and how to explain to physicians what they need), and know the best way to present it. All of this increases the chance of approval.
Even better, SSD attorneys are paid on contingency, so you pay them nothing if you aren’t awarded benefits. Even then, by law, their fee cannot be more than 25% of your SSD backpay award or $6,000, whichever is less.
Paint a clear picture of how the disability interferes with your ability to work
When applying for SSD benefits it is important to give the SSA a clear and accurate picture of how your disability interferes with your ability to perform work-related tasks. Now is not the time to put on a brave face and act like your condition isn’t that big of a deal. Downplaying the extent of your limitations will only decrease the chance that you’ll be awarded benefits.
Make sure to describe how your disability affects you on your worst day, and be specific. For example, rather than write, “I can walk without the assistance of mobility devices,” say “I can only walk 50 feet before needing to sit and rest.”
Also, describe your limitations in relation to job-specific tasks. For example, rather than say, “I cannot lift more than 10 pounds,” say “I cannot lift or carry concrete blocks weighing more than 10 pounds, which is a requirement of my job as a construction worker.”
List each of your medical conditions
Every medical condition in the SSA Blue Book has specific criteria you must meet to qualify for disability benefits. These criteria are very strict, and most people don’t meet them. However, you can still be approved for SSD benefits if your medical records and application show that your condition meets or exceeds a listing. This usually happens by listing each of your medical conditions and being able to show the combined effects of each condition that makes you unable to work.
For example, you may experience back pain, depression, and anxiety. Alone, none of those conditions may meet the SSA medical criteria. However, when considered together, the SSA may find that the cumulative effect of those symptoms makes you unable to work.
Contact The Good Law Group
The attorneys at The Good Law Group have more than 30 years of experience representing clients at every stage of the social security disability application process. We offer a free initial case consultation, and if we accept your case, you pay nothing unless you are awarded benefits. Call us at (847) 577-4476 to schedule an appointment.