By the Numbers. . . Allowances for Disability


Every year, the Social Security Administration complies numbers which it says represents the allowances and denials the Commissioner of Social Security has made in the past fiscal year for applications and appeals for disability. The following numbers are not just for Indiana or the Indianapolis Office of Hearings Operations but for the nation. The numbers and their percentages are only for the decisions made in fiscal year 2017. Therefore, the application or appeal could have been filed a year or many years before fiscal year 2017.

The application process for federal Social Security disability is always started by the filing of an initial application. The initial application can be filed either on line at or by going to a local Social Security office. (To find a local Social Security office near you just enter in you zip code at Social Security Office Locator.) In fiscal year 2017, 34% of the claims were approved and 66% of the initial claims were denied. These numbers are about the same as they had been last year.
If your initial claim falls within the 66% of those which were denied, then you should file a request for reconsideration. This first appeal is reviewed by in house physicians and psychologists at the Disability Determination Bureau in Indianapolis. The rate of approval was 12% with 87% denied.

The next step on the journey to obtain disability benefits is to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. This is the first time that you are able to put “a face with the file.” Traditionally, this is the best level in the entire system to have a successful outcome. In fiscal year 2017, 47% of the claims were approved, 21% were dismissed and 32% were denied. The 47% approval rate is within range of the approval rate for the allowances in the previous year.

The last step on the administrative level for appeal is filing a request for review with the Appeals Council in Falls Church, Va.  This is filed after your application is denied after a hearing before an administrative law judge.  In years past, the percentage of remands has been low. Fiscal year 2017 is no exception. The denials were 86% and the remands (this is, sending the case back to the hearing level for another hearing) was 9%. The Appeals Council paid about 1% of the cases and dismissed 3% of the cases. The 9% remand rate is down from an remand rate of 16% from the recent years. A 9% remand rate means that 91% of the cases filed with the Appeals Council are denied.

Even with such a high decline rate, it is important to file with the Appeals Council because it is the only way to be entitled to file an appeal with the federal district court. At the federal district court, last fiscal year, 48% of the cases were remanded or sent back to the Commissioner to be reheard. 2% of the cases at the federal level were ordered paid and 50% of the cases were either dismissed or denied.

Despite what you may hear from friends, family or neighbors, getting federal Social Security disability is difficult.  The only one “thing” to remember during the entire process is to not give up!



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