Employed individuals contribute to Social Security benefits programs with every paycheck they earn. Although most people expect to recover some of those contributions after retiring, occasionally people need help before they reach the federal retirement age.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) distributes disability benefits to those who are unable to work because of severe medical conditions. Social Security Disability (SSD) insurance benefits can help someone pay for their mortgage and buy groceries when they can no longer work but are not yet old enough to qualify for retirement benefits.
Many potentially qualified people with serious medical issues think they shouldn’t even bother applying because they have heard the urban legend that every SSD applicant gets rejected. Is it true that the SSA won’t approve anyone when they initially apply?
Approval rates are low, but people still get benefits
There is a kernel of truth buried inside the myth that no one ever qualifies for SSD benefits. Plenty of qualified applicants do get SSD when they need it, but it is often an uphill battle to obtain those benefits.
Only approximately 21% of applicants get approved when they first apply based on the SSA’s own analysis of data from between 2010 and 2019. In other words, four out of five applicants receive a rejection notice instead of an approval letter. As if that weren’t disheartening enough, the appeals process can take months to complete.
Only about 2% of applicants get benefits during the reconsideration stage, so many people will have to wait multiple months to have a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Thankfully, roughly another 8% of applicants get their benefits after that hearing, bringing the total approval rate up to roughly 31% on average.
Applying and even appealing are worthwhile efforts
Applying for benefits is a smart move when someone can’t work and knows that their medical condition will persist for at least another 12 months. Even though the process is often frustrating and disappointing, it can be worthwhile as it does lead to roughly a third of applicants eventually getting the support that they require.
Learning more about SSD benefits with the assistance of a knowledgeable legal professional can help people to feel confident about applying at first and also about appealing, if their initial attempt is not successful.