What Are My Chances of Winning a Disability Claim?

Social Security Disability (SSD) is designed to provide disabled Americans a safety net, but approval for benefits is never a guarantee. In fact, most applicants do not win in the initial review stage. There are many reasons why denials happen, but a careful, thorough application and strong medical evidence can work in your favor, increasing your chances of approval.

Although SSD is a federal program, state agencies handle the review of claims. These agencies are most commonly known as Disability Determination Services (DDS) and every state has at least one office. Disability examiners work at these offices and review claims to determine if applicants meet all program requirements.

DDS processes are standardized under federal regulations, but disability approval and denial rates still vary by state. Though the system is supposed to be objective, there are some states in which applications are more frequently denied or approved. The following chart shows average approval ratings by state.

State Initial Approval Rate
Alabama 29.70%
Alaska 44.70%
Arizona 28.50%
Arkansas 29.40%
California 32.50%
Colorado 30.90%
Connecticut 30.20%
Delaware 34.30%
District of Columbia 37.40%
Florida 29.10%
Georgia 29.10%
Hawaii 33.70%
Idaho 32.50%
Illinois 32.40%
Indiana 29.90%
Iowa 36.90%
Kansas 36.60%
Kentucky 24.10%
Louisiana 34.90%
Maine 29.70%
Maryland 28.50%
Massachusetts 40.70%
Michigan 30.60%
Minnesota 34.40%
Mississippi 24.80%
Missouri 33.60%
Montana 34.40%
Nebraska 36.70%
Nevada 35.50%
New Hampshire 49.80%
New Jersey 41.30%
New Mexico 37.00%
New York 38.00%
North Carolina 27.90%
North Dakota 41.90%
Ohio 32.00%
Oklahoma 32.40%
Oregon 32.00%
Pennsylvania 33.00%
Rhode Island 33.00%
South Carolina 30.60%
South Dakota 40.00%
Tennessee 25.40%
Texas 32.80%
Utah 34.20%
Vermont 40.70%
Virginia 38.50%
Washington 35.70%
West Virginia 25.50%
Wisconsin 35.60%
Wyoming 53.60%

Factors other than your geographic location can also influence disability determinations, including the type of condition for which you apply for benefits. Psychological disabilities are often denied upon initial review. Back problems, chronic pain conditions, and other disabilities for which a doctor has not pinned down a definitive cause through diagnostic tests are also frequently denied.

Medical records are essential to being approved for benefits, but even with a lengthy and detailed medical history, you may still receive a denial notice from the DDS. If you are denied, you can continue to try to win your claim by filing an appeal. Approval rates with appeals tend to be higher, though the appeals process can be lengthy and will require you to continue to build a strong case file.