One of the most common questions I receive is, “What are the chances of winning my disability case?” I usually quote the odds in general terms but I decided to look for the statistics and report them in this post. The Social Security Administration publishes a pamphlet with all the statistics included called, “Outcomes of Applications for Disability Benefits.” If you click on the link, you will find the publication. This is the latest available (2012).
The statistics are fairly dismal in terms of the denial rate, as any Social Security Disability attorney could probably tell you. Looking at the statistics for cases at which the only issues are medical ones, at the initial level, 71% of the cases are denied. At the reconsideration level, 92% of the cases are denied.
The statistics drastically change one an applicant appears in front of an administrative law judge. At that point, only 40% are denied. Or another way to say it, 60% of the cases are approved.
There may be many factors why more cases are granted at the hearing level. Such factors may include the hiring of an attorney. Once an attorney is hired, the attorney will work to document the case, update the records and seek out treating source opinions. Or, the higher approval rate may also be due to the fact that the judge sees you and can judge your credibility. Finally, another reason for the change in statistics is that the judge has read the evidence and is required to justify a decision supporting his or her ideas.
These statistics tell me that it is important not give up! The odds get better when you appeal. And for most people, it will require a hearing in front of a judge.