Published on: December 21, 2023
Disability benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs provide essential financial assistance for people unable to work because of a disability. However, only about one-third of initial applications for benefits are approved during the initial disability determination process.
One factor contributing to whether someone’s application for disability benefits may surprise you. Approval rates by state differ significantly. This blog reveals the highest and lowest approval rates by state. It also explains some of the reasons for the differences in approval rates.
How Do Approval Rates Work?
The disability claims process has stages where an applicant may be approved for benefits only about one-third of applicants receive an approval at the end of the initial review of their claim for benefits. Of the remaining two-thirds of applicants who are denied benefits, about 13% of them have their claims approved in the reconsideration phase of the appeal process.
A denial at the reconsideration phase may be appealed to the hearing phase with an administrative law judge. Approximately 54% of claims denied at the reconsideration phase are approved for benefits at the hearing phase of the appeal process.
The nationwide approval rates show that giving up after a denial at the initial application review would appear to be a mistake. It pays to have your claim reviewed by an experienced disability advocate to determine your appeal options.
A factor affecting approval rates is the state where a claimant lives when applying for SSI and SSDI disability benefits. Some states have higher approval rates than others, which may seem odd given that SSI and SSDI are programs administered by the Social Security Administration, a federal agency.
Why Are There Different Approval Rates By State For SSI And SSDI?
The Social Security Administration is a federal agency, but applications for SSI and SSDI are initially reviewed at field offices throughout the country. The field offices verify non-medical eligibility requirements. For instance, an application for SSI benefits must show the income and resources of the claimant do not exceed eligibility limits. A person applying for SSDI must have a work record of long enough duration at jobs where Social Security taxes were paid on the income.
If an application meets the non-medical requirements, a field office sends it to a state agency called the Disability Determination Services. The DDS office reviews the application for SSI and SSDI to decide if there is sufficient medical evidence proving a claimant is disabled or blind.
Approval rates by state for SSI and SSDI can differ because some states have a higher volume of applications or staffing shortages that may limit the time a claim reviewer has to go through an application. Reviewers in some states may not have the time to request additional documentation or medical information from a claimant and may instead deny the claim.
Highest & Lowest Approval Rates By State For SSDI and SSI
Based on the most currently available data, the following are the highest approval rates by state after the initial application review:
- Alaska 65% approval rate
- Kansas 53% approval rate
- Nebraska 51% approval rate
- New Hampshire 49% approval rate
- Montana 47% approval rate
The following states had the lowest approval rates by state for SSDI and SSI:
- Mississippi 34% approval rate
- New Mexico 34% approval rate
- West Virginia 34% approval rate
- Oklahoma 31% approval rate
- District of Columbia 30% approval rate
Alaska and Kansas had the highest approval rates by state for SSDI and SSI, but they did not make the list of the top five states with the highest approval rates at the reconsideration stage. That honor went to the following five states:
- New Hampshire 26% approval rate
- Massachusetts 23% approval rate
- Montana 22% approval rate
- Wisconsin 21% approval rate
- Maine 20% approval rate
The highest approval rates by state for SSDI and SSI after a hearing with an administrative law judge included:
- Hawaii 79% approval rate
- Puerto Rico 65% approval rate
- North Carolina 62% approval rate
- Oklahoma 62% approval rate
- Delaware 61% approval rate
States with higher approval rates for SSI and SSDI appear to have the following similarities:
- Generous policies about social welfare and disability benefit programs.
- Low unemployment rates and strong economies.
- Access to quality health care services.
- Older populations.
Staffing shortages and case backlogs appear to result in lower approval rates than in states with DDS offices that are well-staffed and efficiently managed.
Representation By A Disability Advocate Makes A Difference
A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that claimants with representation, such from a disability advocate, faired better than people who did not have someone representing them. The GAO found that people with representatives were three times more likely to be approved for disability benefits.
Learn how a disability advocate at Disability Experts of Florida can make a difference in your claim for SSDI and SSI. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our disability experts, who will gladly review your claim for benefits and answer any questions about getting disability benefits.