What Are My Chances of Winning a Disability Appeal?

If you are denied benefits at the initial review stage, it’s important to understand you can continue to fight to get approved. You’ll have to file an appeal and be prepared to wait for a decision, but it can be worth the additional effort. Appeal approval rates vary by state, but they tend to average higher than initial review approval rates.

Social Security Disability (SSD) is a federal program, but every state has its own Disability Determination Services (DDS) office(s) and Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). ODAR is the appeals branch of state agency disability services.

Disability staff collects additional evidence from you, your doctors, and/or your attorney prior to an appeal hearing. A hearing is scheduled and you eventually appear before an administrative law judge (ALJ). That ALJ reviews the details of your claim and makes a decision on your eligibility for SSD benefits.

Some ALJs have higher approval rates than others, which can influence your chances of winning. The judges that serve in each state create the state’s average of ODAR approvals and the following chart shows state-by-state figures for SSD benefits awarded in the appeals stage of the review process.

State Initial Approval Rate
Alabama 76.2%
Alaska 60.7%
Arizona 60.7%
Arkansas 72.2%
California 70.0%
Colorado 80.8%
Connecticut 76.4%
Delaware 61.2%
District of Columbia 74.6%
Florida 68.4%
Georgia 60.5%
Hawaii 70.9%
Idaho 81.7%
Illinois 69.3%
Indiana 71.0%
Iowa 83.9%
Kansas 77.9%
Kentucky 73.9%
Louisiana 64.5%
Maine 86.5%
Maryland 76.9%
Massachusetts 78.7%
Michigan 74.6%
Minnesota 81.9%
Mississippi 64.7%
Missouri 75.8%
Montana 74.1%
Nebraska 76.0%
Nevada 73.8%
New Hampshire 89.6%
New Jersey 74.3%
New Mexico 76.0%
New York 78.9%
North Carolina 75.9%
North Dakota 84.7%
Ohio 74.2%
Oklahoma 79.4%
Oregon 86.2%
Pennsylvania 76.3%
Rhode Island 79.5%
South Carolina 65.6%
South Dakota 77.6%
Tennessee 69.3%
Texas 65.1%
Utah 79.0%
Vermont 86.4%
Virginia 74.8%
Washington 80.0%
West Virginia 81.9%
Wisconsin 74.2%
Wyoming 94.1%

The state in which you live is not the only thing that affects your chances of winning, of course. The thoroughness of your application, the details in your medical records, and the severity level of your disability all play a part in the outcome of your claim. Certain kinds of disabilities are also more or less likely to be approved for benefits.

Applicants with mental illnesses, chronic pain conditions, and disabilities that fluctuate in intensity or severity level over time all have a more difficult time winning their disability claims. To prove your disability case, you must have strong medical records, including a formal diagnosis.

An application without a definitive diagnosis is less likely to win, even in states that average a high approval rate at ODAR, so work closely with your doctor. If a definitive diagnosis is not achievable, be sure to build other parts of your medical evidence and work with your doctor and other healthcare providers to thoroughly document the full extent of your symptoms and limitations.