SSD Approval Rates: How Representation Impacts Your Chances at Each Stage

Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and getting approval is not always easy. According to data from 2020, only 45.22% of all SSD applications were approved nationally, meaning over one-half of applicants did not receive benefits. However, seeking experienced representation can boost your chances of success. This blog post considers how representation impacts your chances of approval at each stage of the SSD approval process. 

Initial Application Stage

The initial application stage is the first step in the SSD process. This is also the stage where most applications are initially denied. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a strict set of criteria to evaluate each application, and many applications do not meet the criteria.

Having representation at this stage can significantly increase your chances of approval. An experienced SSD attorney can help you prepare a strong application that meets the SSA’s criteria and provide all the necessary medical evidence needed to support your claim. With an attorney’s assistance, your initial application is much more likely to be approved.

Reconsideration Stage

If your initial application is denied, you have the option to file a new initial claim or request a reconsideration of your initial claim. At this stage, the SSA will review your application again, along with any other evidence you provide. The approval rate at this stage can be even lower than at the initial application stage. 

Studies show that when a claimant is represented by an attorney at this stage, the chance of being approved increases to about 60%. An attorney can help you gather additional evidence, present a strong case to the SSA, and help you address any issues that may have led to your initial denial.  

Hearing Stage

If your application is denied again, you may still file a new initial claim or request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). While legal representation is not required, representation can be crucial to success at this stage. An experienced SSD attorney can help you gather and review your medical records, prepare you for the hearing and any questions that the ALJ may ask, and develop a strong argument for why you should receive SSD benefits. SSD attorneys are especially helpful for presenting medical evidence, cross-examining witnesses, and challenging experts.

Appeals Council Stage

If your claim is denied at the hearing stage, you may request an appeal to the Appeals Council. Representation may be critical to your chances of success at this stage, as the Appeals Council typically upholds the decision of the ALJ. 

An experienced SSD attorney has experience appearing before the Appeals Council. They can help you provide supplementary evidence to support your claim, and ultimately, help you develop a strong appeal argument for why the ALJ’s decision was incorrect. 


SSD attorneys or advocates can help increase your chances of success at each stage of the process. Getting their help from the outset can save you time and money in the long run.


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