Social Security Disability Benefits Are Increasingly Difficult to Receive

A recent article on Social Security Disability highlighted an ever-significant trend in the program: benefits are getting harder and harder to get.

The article begins by pointing out an irony: “If you listened to the foes of Social Security without checking the facts, you would probably think that SSD benefits are given to anyone who walks in the door.  Nothing could be further from the truth, as revealed by statistical information released by the Social Security Administration.”

Indeed, the most recent “Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program” is startling.  In 1999, there were 1,265,037 new claims for benefits.  Approximately 100,000 claimants were denied for so-called “technical” reasons.  And about 450,000 claimants were denied for medical reasons.  All told (along with a few other adjustments), these numbers represented a 56% award approval rate for all disability claimants.  But this rate declined severely over the subsequent decade.  In 2010, the total percentage of Social Security Disability claimants whose claims were approved was just shy of 35%.

Most of this drop, as is simply depicted in a chart available on the SSA’s website (, can be attributed to technical denials.  These are non-medical, and generally involve earnings and/or employment restrictions.

Still, the trends hold steady in many other respects as well.  Requests for reconsideration of benefit award rulings decreased from 13.5% to 6.3% over the same 10-year period.  Medical denials increased from 12.9% of all claims to 17.4%.  And, also to the chagrin of SSD and SSDI claimants, newer Administrative Law Judges appear more inclined to deny disability claims than their older counterparts.  ALJs hired after 2010 deny around 47% of all reviewed claims, while—nationally—that number is closer to 43%.

Whether these trends are reflections of general political attitudes, or of some other systemic attributes of the program, is unclear.  But what is clear is that those seeking benefits have more difficult roads to travel than others than came before them.

For more information, see the aforementioned article here:

Or go directly to the most recent SSA annual statistical report here:

For more information please contact Gaylord Popp, LLC at www.gaylordpopp.comor call at 855-850-7856.