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|
|District of Columbia||37.40%|
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.