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What percent of disability cases does Social Security approve?

One of the most common questions we are asked is what is the percentage of claims and cases does Social Security disability approve? Or, put another way, “What are my chances of winning?”

Social Security keeps very detailed (if somewhat obtuse) statistics which provide some very surprising answers.

  • Approval at all levels – 54.8%. This is the total allowance rates, at all adjudicative levels (initial application through Appeals Council).
  • Initial Approval – 36.3%. This is the percentage approved from the initial application.
  • Reconsideration Approval – 8.1%. This is the percentage approved at the reconsideration stage. Note: Colorado is a pilot program state and has done away with the Reconsideration step for disability claims.
  • Hearing Level “and above” Approval – 76.1%. This is the percentage of cases approved at hearings before administrative law judges, and at the Social Security Appeals Council. The statistics to not show how many cases are approved at the hearing level versus the Appeals Council level. However, since very few cases are approved outright by the Appeals Council (most Appeals Council “wins” are a remand back to the hearing judge), it is a reasonable guess that the majority of these are approved at the hearing level.

This is based on the July 2011 “Annual Statistical Reports on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program.” The percentages are for year 2010 – last year data is available at the time of this writing.

Image provided by Ryan MGuire.

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  • Gordon Gates

    There is also a breakdown available of initial and reconsideration allowance rates by state and region. The statistics for Colorado show a 35.7% allowance rate for initial claims in FY 2011.

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