Social Security Disability Claims, by the Numbers

Posted on August 9th, 2018

Did you know that approximately 2,327,840 applications for disability benefits are filed each year and that 12 percent of people in the United States are considered disabled? We at Eric Buchanan & Associates have broken down some of the numbers behind what happens after your initial claim is filed.with the Social Security Administration:

  • 69 percent go through the initial phase for consideration (approximately 1,608,524)
  • 31 percent (714,778) are given a “technical denial”
  • 37.9 percent are awarded benefits
  • 62.1 percent of initial applications are denied
  • 48 percent of the people denied at the initial level properly appeal by filing a request for reconsideration
  • 9.7 percent of appeals at the reconsideration level are approved
  • 90.3 percent of requests for reconsideration are denied
  • Of the people who have been denied at the initial and reconsideration levels, who properly file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) 52% receive a favorable decision.  This is the level with the highest winning percentage.
  • If someone is denied by an ALJ, the fight is not over.  The next appeal is to the SSA Appeals Council; unfortunately, only 2% of claims are approved at the Appeals Council, but 18% are sent back to the ALJ for a new hearing.
  • If someone is denied at the Appeals Council, and they may appeal one more time to federal court on their own or with the help of an attorney.  Again there is a very low favorable decision rate at this level (3%), but courts find errors sufficient to send the case back to the ALJ an additional 45% of the time.

In some states, like Tennessee and Georgia, the percentages of claims approved at the first two levels is even lower than the national average above. 

A person who thinks he or she is disabled should not give up.  Many people don’t win their social security claim until the third step, but when they win, back benefits can be paid for the time while the claim is pending.  In many cases, once a claim for benefits has been approved, the claimant can begin receiving benefits six months after the date the SSA determined the disability began, and receive back benefits up to one year prior to the date of application (but no earlier than six months after the date disability began.

Getting Legal Help

If you or a loved needs helps in filing a disability claim, the disability experts at Eric Buchanan & Associates has over 15 years of experience in disability insurance, ERISA long term disability and Social Security disability law. Give us a call today at 877-634-2506 or email us at to set up your appointment.