Highest and Lowest Approval Rates by State for SSDI and SSI

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs play a crucial role in providing financial assistance to individuals with disabilities in the United States. These programs offer essential support to those who are unable to work due to disabilities, helping them maintain a certain level of financial stability. However, not all applicants are granted approval for benefits, leading to regional variations in approval rates. In 2022, the approval rates for SSDI and SSI applications varied significantly across different states. This article identifies the highest and lowest approval rates by state for SSDI and SSI in 2022 and explains the factors that contribute to these variations.

Nationwide Average Approval Rates for SSDI and SSI

The national average approval rates for both SSDI and SSI reveal general success rates at each of the three stages of the disability benefits approval process.

To understand how these phases differ, you must understand that only 35% of disability claims were approved upon their initial review. Of the 65% that were initially denied, only 13% were approved at the first appeal stage at which the denial is “reconsidered.” And of the 52% of disability benefits applications that were initially denied and were denied again during the reconsideration review, 54% were approved after a full hearing before the administrative law judge.

From start to finish, then, on a national level, approximately 72% of all disability claims pending in 2022 were approved. 28% of disability claims were denied throughout the entire process.

Why Do SSDI and SSI State Approval Rates Vary if They Are Federal Programs?

Regional and State-by-State Variations in Disability Approval Rates

Since both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs are both federal programs, how can the claim approval rates be different from state to state? The reason is that both the SSDI and SSI federal programs are administered by state and local agencies.

When a claim for disability benefits is submitted to either SSDI or SSI, the first desk on which the claim is examined is at the state Disability Determination Service (DDS) office. While all DDS case reviewers are trained to apply the same criteria as a standard for reviewing a claimant’s application for benefits, a wide range in the relative rate of claim approvals reveals that not all DDS offices operate the same.

The variation in approval or denial rates for any individual DDS office could reflect a substantial difference between each office’s caseload or case logjam. When staffing levels are low and workload is high, each DDS reviewer can spend less time reviewing each individual claim. Consequently, some reviewers make quick decisions without digging deeply into a claimant’s file for answers.

For example, if a disability claim is submitted to a DDS office with a lighter workload, a case reviewer who notices a document is missing from the application might return the claim to the claimant with directions to supplement the file with the missing document. When that same scenario is presented in a DDS office with overburdened reviewers, the case worker might just deny the claim as a result of it being incomplete.

States with the Highest and Lowest SSDI and SSI Approval Rates

The rate of disability claim approvals for each state in 2022 can be examined by how many applications were approved at each stage of the application process, including the first appeal for reconsideration and the next appeal before an administrative law judge (ALJ) at a full hearing.

Rate of Initial Determination Approvals

The figures from 2022 show that Kansas approved 53% of disability claims at the initial application stage. These were approvals issued by the New Hampshire State Disability Determination Service. This was the highest recorded initial approval rate of states reporting results for all three phases of the claim process.

States with the Highest and Lowest SSDI and SSI Approval Rates

Compare that initial stage approval rate to that in Oklahoma where only 31% of SSDI and SSI claims were approved at the initial review stage. That indicates an initial denial rate of almost 70%, a substantially higher percentage of denials than were issued in Kansas and other high-initial-approval states like New Hampshire (51%), and Nebraska (49%).

Rate of Reconsideration Stage Approvals

Disability claimants whose applications were initially denied should make sure to file a request for reconsideration. This request for reconsideration puts the file back before the state Disability Determination Services office that denied the claim initially. However, the does get reviewed to determine if the claim was denied in error.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most requests for reconsideration do not result in a reversal of the initial denial. However, reconsideration must be requested in order to preserve the claimant’s right to appeal to an administrative law judge (ALJ) in a full hearing.

The states with the highest rate of reversing the initial denial during the reconsideration phase were New Hampshire (26%), Massachusetts (23%), Montana (22%), Maine (21%), and Maryland (20%). These numbers seem to indicate that these states are both the most open to reconsidering initial denials or they are most astute at identifying initial errors made by their colleagues.

The states in which requests for reconsideration of initial claim denials met with the least success were Minnesota, Utah, Indiana, Kentucky, and Colorado, each of which reversed only 11% of initial denials during the reconsideration process.

Rate of Approval Following Full Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

The state of Hawaii was by far the place where disability claimants had the best results in full hearings before administrative law judges. Claim denials that were appealed to administrative law judges in the Social Security Administration were approved 78% of the time in the Hawaii claim group. The next highest rates of approval following full ALJ hearings were in Puerto Rico (65%), North Carolina (62%), Oklahoma (62%), and Delaware (61%).

States with the Highest and Lowest SSDI and SSI Approval Rates

State where disability claimants experienced the lowest rates of approval after bringing their claims to a full hearing with an administrative law judge were Kansas (42%), New Mexico (46%), and in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Missouri, Utah, and Colorado, each of which saw only a 47% claim approval rate after a full ALJ hearing.

Factors Influencing Approval Rates

Several factors contribute to the varying approval rates of SSDI and SSI applications across different states:

  • Economic Conditions: States with stronger economies and lower unemployment rates may exhibit higher approval rates. A stable job market reduces the likelihood of individuals needing disability benefits due to a lack of work opportunities.
  • Access to Healthcare: States with better access to quality healthcare services may have higher approval rates. Adequate medical documentation and evidence can significantly impact the decision-making process for disability benefit applications.
  • Demographics: States with an older population or higher prevalence of certain disabilities might experience higher approval rates due to a larger pool of eligible applicants.
  • Advocacy and Support: States with strong disability advocacy networks, community organizations, and legal aid services can provide applicants with better guidance and support throughout the application process.
  • Government Policies: State-level policies regarding disability benefits, healthcare, and social welfare programs can influence approval rates. States with more generous benefits or streamlined application processes might have higher approval rates.
  • Education and Awareness: States that prioritize disability education and awareness campaigns can result in more accurate and well-prepared applications, leading to higher approval rates.
  • Administrative Backlogs: Differences in administrative efficiency and backlogs can also impact approval rates. States with well-managed systems may process applications more quickly, resulting in higher approval rates.

The approval rates for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications in 2022 displayed significant variations across different states. Factors such as economic conditions, access to healthcare, demographics, advocacy efforts, government policies, education, and administrative efficiency all contribute to these disparities. States like North Dakota, Hawaii, and Utah reported higher approval rates, potentially due to a combination of supportive social systems and proactive advocacy. Conversely, states like Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Alabama reported lower approval rates, likely influenced by economic struggles, limited healthcare access, and disparities in education and awareness.

It’s important to recognize that approval rates can change over time due to shifts in policies, economic conditions, and other factors. As the United States continues to address disability-related challenges, understanding the nuances of approval rates can aid in the development of targeted interventions and policies to better serve individuals with disabilities across all states.

The best chance of Disability Benefits Approval is with a Skilled Disability Lawyer

An experienced Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) lawyer will present your disability claim in the most professional, organized, and compelling manner possible. At the Clauson Law Firm, we work with Social Security disability claimants every day and we have an extraordinary success rate in winning approval for our clients. We will collect and work with your medical records, consult with your treating physicians as necessary, and follow through with your claim until it is finally resolved with the most favorable result possible.

If you think you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits or you already filed a claim and were denied, contact The Clauson Law Firm today. We want to help you get approved for full benefits.

About Author


Clauson Law has focused on representing the injured and disabled for over 10 years. We have handled thousands of cases. Each client is important to us and has a unique situation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.