What Is the Best State for Disability Benefits in 2024? Disability Application Approval Rates for All 50 States (2024 Update)

How hard is it to get approved for monthly disability benefits from the federal government? While it depends on your individual situation, other factors—such as where you live, the type of disability you have, and your financial status—all have an impact on your approval odds.

Navigating the complexities of disability applications can be daunting. Many individuals wonder about their chances of approval, especially after an initial rejection. Understanding the factors that influence these outcomes—like age, state, and specific conditions—is crucial for anyone applying or appealing. Discover how your state compares and learn the strategies that can increase your likelihood of a successful disability claim for any types of disability benefits.

Disability Application Approval Rates

Understanding the approval rates for disability benefits provides crucial insight into the challenges and expectations for applicants. In the United States, the process of getting approved for disability benefits, whether it’s Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), varies significantly. As of recent data, about 38% of applicants who meet the technical requirements are accepted on their initial application. However, for those who choose to appeal initial denials, the approval rate rises to 53% by the end of the appeals process.

SSDI Disability Application Outcomes By Type

Source: SSA.gov

These figures highlight the persistence required in navigating the disability benefits system. They also underline the importance of preparing a robust application, as the chances of approval significantly increase after the initial application stage.

Factors Affecting Disability Approval Rates

What impacts your odds of being approved for disability? Knowing what specific program you’re eligible to apply for can make a huge difference. In addition, disability application approval rates for children are often much higher than those for adults. Another factor most people don’t take into consideration? The state where they currently live when they apply for benefits. While the Social Security Administration administers both federal disability programs, your state plays a role in the application approval process. A few common factors include:

Do Demographic Factors Affect SSD Approval Rates?

  • Age Distribution: Today’s young workers have a significant risk of becoming disabled before retirement, with about a one in three chance. This impacts both the demographic makeup of disability applicants and potentially influences the approval process, considering their long-term benefit reception.
  • Gender Disparities: In 2024, there isn’t a significant disparity between men and women when it comes to disability approval rates. However, in the 1980s, women have lagged behind men in disability approvals by 25 percent. Now, however, although approval rates have caught up for women, women still receive lower benefits than men. Where 14 percent of men receive more than $2,000 in SSDI benefits monthly, only 5 percent of women do.
  • Ethnicity and Race: Ethnicity and race can influence medical access and treatment, subsequently affecting disability recognition and approval rates. According to research conducted by the National Disability Institute, Black Americans are the most likely ethnic group to have a disability, and as many as 2.5 million Black Americans may qualify for SSDI benefits they aren’t receiving.

Socioeconomic Factors

  • Income Levels: An applicant’s financial condition can significantly influence their ability to secure the necessary documentation and legal help needed for their disability application, thus affecting their approval chances. Additionally, it may result in lower payouts, due to their work history impacting their monthly SSDI income.
  • Education Levels: Higher education levels can enable better understanding and ability to navigate the disability application process, potentially leading to higher approval rates.
  • Geographic Location: The approval rates for disability benefits can vary widely across different states, affected by local policies and adherence to federal guidelines.

Highest and Lowest Approval Rates By State

Navigating the landscape of disability benefits can vastly differ depending on the state in which an applicant files. Some states demonstrate a consistently higher likelihood of approval for disability claims, providing a more favorable environment for applicants.

What is the Easiest State to Get Disability?

Based on the latest data, states like Alaska and New Hampshire are noted for their higher approval rates, making them among the easiest states to secure disability benefits. For example, Alaska had an approval rate of 62% for SSDI claims, while New Hampshire showed strong approval statistics across various disability programs.

Here are the top 5 states by application approval rates across all programs:

  • Alaska: 52%
  • New Hampshire: 51%
  • Nebraska: 49%
  • Vermont: 49%
  • North Dakota: 47%

What is the Hardest State to Get Disability?

Conversely, states like Oklahoma and Kentucky present more challenges for applicants, with approval rates significantly lower than the national average. Oklahoma, for instance, has one of the lowest approval rates, making the process more daunting for residents seeking disability benefits.

Here are the 5 worst states to get approved for disability based on the approval rate across all programs:

  • Oklahoma: 32%
  • Kentucky: 33%
  • Arizona: 34%
  • West Virginia: 34%
  • Indiana: 35%

These variations highlight the influence of state-specific practices and resources on the approval process for disability benefits. Understanding these differences is crucial for applicants to set realistic expectations and prepare adequately for their applications.

Challenges Faced by Applicants During the Application Process

Applying for disability benefits involves navigating a series of complex procedures that can pose significant hurdles for applicants. Here are some of the most common challenges encountered:

  • Documentation Requirements: The need for extensive and detailed medical and work history documentation is one of the primary barriers. Applicants must provide comprehensive evidence that meets the Social Security Administration’s strict criteria, often requiring meticulous record-keeping and frequent communication with healthcare providers.
  • Medical Evidence Challenges: Securing the necessary medical evidence to support a disability claim is another major challenge. This includes obtaining accurate and thorough documentation from healthcare providers that align with the SSA’s definitions of disability. The process of gathering this evidence can be time-consuming and requires significant coordination.
  • Administrative Hurdles: Navigating the bureaucracy of the SSA can be daunting. Each step of the application process, from initial submission to appeals, involves multiple administrative layers. Delays are common, and the process can become even more complicated if the initial application is denied, requiring further appeals that extend the waiting period for applicants.

These challenges underline the need for clear guidance and potentially legal assistance to navigate the process effectively and improve the chances of a successful application.

Strategies for Improving Disability Application Approval Rates

Successfully navigating the disability application process often requires more than just submitting the necessary paperwork. Here are effective strategies structured as subheadings:

Advocacy and Support Services

Engaging with disability advocacy groups and support services can provide applicants with essential resources and guidance. These organizations offer expert advice and can assist in preparing a thorough application, understanding the requirements, and navigating the appeals process if needed.

Education and Awareness Campaigns

Raising awareness about the disability application process through educational campaigns can empower applicants. These initiatives help clarify the complexities of the process, inform about the necessary documentation, and highlight the common reasons for denials, preparing applicants better for the challenges ahead.

Hiring a Disability Lawyer

Hiring a disability lawyer can significantly increase the chances of a successful disability application, potentially tripling the odds of approval. Lawyers are experts in the SSDI and SSI application processes, ensuring that all necessary documentation and evidence are included and reducing common mistakes that lead to denials. They assist in preparing detailed applications, gather essential documents, and effectively communicate with the SSA on behalf of the applicant. Studies show that applicants represented by disability lawyers have higher approval rates, as lawyers’ expertise helps navigate the complexities of the application process more effectively.

Utilizing these strategies not only helps individual applicants but also serves to streamline the overall process by reducing common errors and delays that can lead to denials.

Is It Harder To Get SSI Or SSDI?

When applying for federal disability benefits, applicants often wonder whether it’s more challenging to qualify for SSI or SSDI. Understanding the distinctions between these two programs is crucial:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is designed to help elderly, blind, or disabled individuals who have little or no income, providing them with funds to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. The eligibility for SSI not only depends on the medical condition but also heavily relies on the applicant’s financial situation. Applicants must demonstrate significant financial need, which is assessed based on their income and resources. Based on medical eligibility alone, 44% of SSI applicants are approved for disability benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI provides benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. SSDI eligibility is based on the applicant’s work history and the amount of Social Security taxes they have paid. The focus here is more on the disability itself rather than the financial status. Based on medical eligibility alone, 48% of SSDI applicants are approved for disability benefits.

Based on the above, the approval rate for SSDI is slightly higher than for SSI.

SSI vs. SSDI Approval Requirements

  • Financial Requirements: SSI has strict income and resource limits, which makes it challenging for those with any significant assets or income. SSDI does not consider income from sources other than work, focusing instead on work credits and disability status.
  • Medical Eligibility: Both programs require the applicant to meet the SSA’s definition of disability. However, SSI applicants might face additional scrutiny due to the combined assessment of their financial and medical needs.
  • Approval Rates: Generally, SSDI might be perceived as harder to get due to the requirement of a sufficient work history. However, for those who meet the work requirements, their financial resources do not impact their eligibility, which is not the case with SSI.
  • Age Requirements: SSI is available for disabled children and adults, or seniors. Meanwhile, SSDI is only available for people aged 16 to retirement age.

Understanding these nuances can help applicants determine which program they are more likely to qualify for based on their individual circumstances.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Disability Application Approval Rates By State

The table below shows average SSI application approval rates in every state broken down into the following categories:

  • SSI application approval rates for children as well as adults
  • Overall SSI application approval rate by state, shown as a percentage of total claims filed
StateAdult SSI Application Approval RatesChild SSI Application Approval RatesAvg. SSI Application Approval Rates

SSI approval rates can vary widely from state to state, reflecting differences in how local agencies interpret and apply federal guidelines. Here are some highlights from the most recent data:

  • High Approval Rates: Alaska demonstrates remarkably high SSI approval rates for children at 71%, with an overall state average of 62%. This suggests a more favorable environment for SSI applicants, particularly for families seeking support for children with disabilities.
  • Low Approval Rates: In contrast, states like Oklahoma have lower approval rates, with only 27% for adults and 60% for children, averaging at 38%. Such discrepancies underline the impact of state-operated systems on the federal benefit distribution process.

These variances underscore the importance of understanding local trends and conditions, which can significantly influence the outcome of SSI applications.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Application Approval Rates By State

Now, find your state’s SSDI application approval rates for adult claimants in 2023 below: 

  • AK: 54%
  • AL: 41%
  • AR: 44%
  • AZ: 35%
  • CA: 40%
  • CO: 39%
  • CT: 49%
  • DC: 37%
  • DE: 44%
  • FL: 42%
  • GA: 40%
  • HI: 44%
  • IA: 51%
  • ID: 46%
  • IL: 46%
  • IN: 41%
  • KS: 51%
  • KY: 38%
  • LA: 44%
  • MA: 47%
  • MD: 50%
  • ME: 46%
  • MI: 45%
  • MN: 52%
  • MO: 47%
  • MS: 43%
  • MT: 43%
  • NC: 41%
  • ND: 50%
  • NE: 53%
  • NH: 56%
  • NJ: 43%
  • NM: 41%
  • NV: 38%
  • NY: 44%
  • OH: 45%
  • OK: 35%
  • OR: 47%
  • PA: 45%
  • RI: 52%
  • SC: 45%
  • SD: 46%
  • TN: 40%
  • TX: 36%
  • UT: 45%
  • VA: 44%
  • VT: 55%
  • WA: 46%
  • WI: 49%
  • WV: 40%
  • WY: 48%

Similarly, SSDI application approval rates also vary by state, reflecting different administrative practices:

  • High Approval Rates: New Hampshire stands out with a high SSDI approval rate of 56%, suggesting efficient processing and perhaps more lenient criteria or better advocacy within the state.
  • Low Approval Rates: Conversely, Oklahoma has one of the lower approval rates at 35%, indicating potential challenges or stricter interpretations of SSDI eligibility criteria by local offices.

This variation highlights how geographic factors can influence not just application outcomes but also the strategies that applicants might need to employ.

Concurrent Claim & Combined Adult Disability Application Approval Rates By State

We averaged the overall adult disability application approval rates for each U.S. state below. This includes all individual disability application approval rates as well as what the SSA calls “concurrent claims.” Concurrent application approval rates indicate when the SSA screens a single claim for both SSI and SSDI programs at once. 

StateAvg. Application Approval Rate (All Programs)Avg. Application Approval Rate, Concurrent Claims Only

When applicants file for both SSI and SSDI, known as concurrent claims, the approval rates provide an interesting insight into how these cases are handled:

  • Overall Trends: The average approval rate for concurrent claims is notably lower than for single program applications, indicating the complexity of meeting criteria for both programs simultaneously.
  • Specific Examples: For instance, in Alabama, the average approval rate for all adult disability applications is 31%, but it drops to 22% for concurrent claims. This suggests that the combined criteria can significantly complicate approval chances.

These insights into state-specific approval rates for SSI, SSDI, and concurrent claims underline the varied landscape of disability benefits across the United States. Understanding these patterns can help applicants and advocates better prepare for and navigate the application process.

Work With a Disability Lawyer to Increase Your Chances of Approval

Navigating the disability benefits application process can be complex, but working with a disability lawyer can significantly enhance your chances of approval. Disability lawyers specialize in the intricacies of Social Security programs, providing expert guidance on documentation and case presentation, identifying reasons for denials, and effectively appealing them. They also represent clients at hearings, where their expertise in arguing cases and challenging evidence can be crucial. Importantly, most disability lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if the case is successful, allowing applicants to access professional assistance without upfront costs.

Disability Approval Rate Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How are disability approval rates calculated?

Disability approval rates are calculated based on the number of applicants who successfully meet the eligibility criteria of the Social Security Administration (SSA) at various stages of the application and appeal process.

What can applicants do to improve their chances of approval?

Applicants can improve their chances of approval by ensuring that their application is thoroughly prepared with all necessary medical documentation, seeking help from advocacy groups, and considering the support of a disability lawyer especially if the case must be appealed.

Are there differences in approval rates based on types of disabilities?

Yes, approval rates can vary significantly depending on the type of disability. Conditions that are well-documented and severe, such as terminal illnesses or certain fast-tracked conditions like ALS, generally have higher approval rates due to clearer medical evidence.

How do approval rates vary for different age groups?

Approval rates often vary across different age groups, reflecting the SSA’s criteria that might favor older applicants who are closer to retirement age and less likely to be retrained for new employment.

What role does medical evidence play in the approval process?

Medical evidence is critical in the approval process as it substantiates the applicant’s claim of disability. The SSA requires detailed and specific medical records to establish that an applicant’s condition meets their definition of disability, which involves significant limitations on the ability to perform basic work activities.

Shay Fleming is the SEO Content Manager at LeadingResponse. A proud graduate of Texas State University, she has been based in Austin since 2016, where she lives with her dog. Shay has contributed extensively to various domains, writing and publishing articles about real estate, investing, disability, and urban living.