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Social Security Disability Approval Rates by State and Hearing Office

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Photo of Derek Silva — Atticus Author
Derek Silva
Data Journalist and Content Lead
April 1, 2023  ·  7 min read
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Applying for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a challenging and long process. Nationally, only about 35% of initial applications were approved in 2022. At the first appeal stage (reconsideration) about 13% of applications were approved. At a court hearing, which is the second and generally last appeal stage, about 54% of claims were approved.

However, the odds of approval also varied greatly by state in 2022. To better understand the chances of winning your Social Security disability claim, Atticus compared approval rates at every stage of the process and across all 50 states (plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.).

Triple your chances of getting approved. Get matched with a top disability lawyer today.

Why do disability approval rates vary by state?

Even though SSDI and SSI are both federal programs, where you live impacts your chances of approval because application reviews and appeals are handled at state or local levels.

After submitting your initial application, your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) will review your medical eligibility. DDS uses the same evaluation process in every state, but medical approval rates range from as low as 30% in Washington, D.C., to as high as 51% in New Hampshire.

If your initial claim is denied, you can file for reconsideration. This is the first stage of appeal and involves DDS and SSA going over your application again. About 90% of claims are denied again at the reconsideration phase, but rates for medical approval (meaning your state DDS decided you meet the medical requirements to get disability) range from 11% in Colorado up to 26% in New Hampshire.

If your reconsideration is denied, you can move to the next appeal stage — a court hearing in front of a disability judge. Your hearing will usually be held at an SSA office within your state. Most judges are also local since they only hear cases in a single office. Based on a previous Atticus study, disability judge approval rates vary significantly across the country.

At the national level, judges approved claims in 54% of hearings. But going state by state, approval rates range from a low of 22% in Hawaii to a high of 54% in New Mexico. Looking at individual judges, some approved only 10% of cases while others approved over 90% of cases (see our judge-by-judge breakdown here).


Social Security disability approval rates by state

The following table breaks down state approval rates for SSDI and SSI. Note that the rates for initial applications and reconsiderations use what the SSA calls allowance rate. An allowance means the person was medically approved, though they may still be denied if they don’t meet technical requirements (like not having enough work history to qualify for SSDI). Nationally in the past decade, the final award rate (medical and technical qualification) was about 10% lower than the allowance rate. The rates for hearings represent full approvals.

Social Security disability approval rates by state in 2022

State

Initial application allowance rate

Reconsideration allowance rate

Disability hearing approval rate

Alabama

34%

16%

57%

Alaska

65%

17%

No hearings in 2022

Arizona

36%

16%

52%

Arkansas

38%

15%

49%

California

37%

15%

59%

Colorado

37%

11%

47%

Connecticut

45%

18%

47%

Delaware

37%

19%

61%

District of Columbia

30%

13%

48%

Florida

40%

15%

56%

Georgia

36%

15%

53%

Hawaii

39%

14%

78%

Idaho

44%

18%

No hearings in 2022

Illinois

40%

15%

49%

Indiana

35%

11%

53%

Iowa

44%

14%

57%

Kansas

53%

14%

42%

Kentucky

34%

11%

51%

Louisiana

38%

18%

54%

Maine

42%

20%

56%

Maryland

45%

19%

59%

Massachusetts

45%

23%

50%

Michigan

41%

15%

60%

Minnesota

45%

11%

49%

Mississippi

34%

14%

51%

Missouri

42%

16%

47%

Montana

47%

22%

53%

Nebraska

49%

16%

55%

Nevada

40%

14%

50%

New Hampshire

51%

26%

53%

New Jersey

42%

15%

59%

New Mexico

34%

17%

46%

New York

40%

17%

58%

North Carolina

37%

14%

62%

North Dakota

43%

17%

52%

Ohio

39%

13%

53%

Oklahoma

31%

12%

62%

Oregon

44%

16%

59%

Pennsylvania

39%

16%

50%

Puerto Rico

47%

11%

65%

Rhode Island

46%

16%

47%

South Carolina

43%

16%

60%

South Dakota

41%

16%

No hearings in 2022

Tennessee

40%

17%

58%

Texas

35%

15%

50%

Utah

41%

11%

47%

Vermont

46%

17%

No hearings in 2022

Virginia

42%

16%

48%

Washington

41%

14%

49%

West Virginia

34%

12%

57%

Wisconsin

44%

21%

52%

Wyoming

44%

11%

No hearings in 2022

Triple your chances of getting approved. Get matched with a top disability lawyer today.

Disability hearing approval rates by state

Disability benefit approval rate by state

Disability hearings are handled by individual offices, but most states have multiple office locations. Of the 44 states (including Puerto Rico) with a hearing office, 34 have multiple offices. Approval rates also vary significantly across states.

10 states with the highest SSI and SSDI hearing approval rates

Below are the 10 states with the highest approval rates in 2022:

  1. Hawaii — 78% approval rate
  2. North Carolina — 62% approval rate
  3. Oklahoma — 62% approval rate
  4. Delaware — 61% approval rate
  5. South Carolina — 60% approval rate
  6. Michigan — 60% approval rate
  7. Oregon — 59% approval rate
  8. New Jersey — 59% approval rate
  9. Maryland — 59% approval rate
  10. California — 59% approval rate

In Puerto Rico, residents do qualify for Social Security disability and the approval rate was 65% in 2022. Interestingly, some of these states with the highest approval ratings also ranked among the states where it’s easiest to live off disability benefits.

States with the Highest Disability Approval Rates

Related: 5 Signs You’ll be Approved for Disability

10 states with the lowest SSI and SSDI hearing approval rates

Below are the 10 states with the lowest approval rates in 2022:

  1. New Mexico — 46% approval rate
  2. Missouri — 47% approval rate
  3. Utah — 47% approval rate
  4. Connecticut — 47% approval rate
  5. Colorado — 47% approval rate
  6. Rhode Island — 47% approval rate
  7. Virginia — 48% approval rate
  8. Minnesota — 49% approval rate
  9. Illinois — 49% approval rate
  10. Washington — 49% approval rate

The offices with the highest denial rates all approve a similar percentage of claims, but there is still variability within the state. As an example, there were two offices in New Mexico that handled disability cases in 2022. While one office had an approval rate of only 44%, the other approved 47% of claims. In Missouri, there were six offices that had approval rates ranging from 38% to just over 53%.

States with the lowest disability hearing approval rate

Disability hearing approval rates by hearing office

Most disability applicants must go through multiple rounds of appeals until they get to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).

ALJs decide whether to approve or deny someone’s Social Security disability claim by considering all of the information in their application file (medical information, work history, etc.) plus testimony from job experts (vocational experts) and possibly medical experts. This process is the same whether a person applies for SSDI or SSI.

Hearings are conducted through one of the SSA’s hearing offices. In 2022, there were 168 hearing offices that made decisions in SSDI and SSI cases. The approval rate for most hearing offices was between 50% and 65%. This is in line with the average judge approval rate across all offices (54%). However, rates did range from as low as 35% in Richmond, Virginia, to as high as 79% in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Disability approval rates by hearing office in 2022

Hearing office

Cases Decided in 2022

Approval rate in 2022

Denial rate in 2022

Akron, OH

2,855

57%

43%

Albany

2,326

55%

45%

Albuquerque

1,267

44%

56%

Alexandria

1,864

49%

51%

Atlanta Downtown

2,205

56%

44%

Atlanta North

1,720

55%

45%

Baltimore

3,072

65%

35%

Billings

1,422

53%

47%

Birmingham

3,396

49%

51%

Boston

1,729

48%

52%

Bronx

1,488

55%

45%

Buffalo

1,525

48%

52%

Charleston, SC

1,855

53%

47%

Charleston, WV

2,151

66%

34%

Charlotte

2,543

62%

38%

Charlottesville

856

46%

54%

Chattanooga

1,952

64%

36%

Chicago

2,453

54%

46%

Cincinnati

1,944

56%

44%

Cleveland

3,174

47%

53%

Colorado Springs

1,534

36%

64%

Columbia MO

921

50%

50%

Columbia, SC

3,067

62%

38%

Columbus

2,005

52%

48%

Covington, GA

1,928

58%

42%

Creve Coeur

1,912

48%

52%

Dallas Downtown

1,752

52%

48%

Dallas North OHO

3,041

56%

44%

Dayton

2,198

57%

43%

Denver

2,519

54%

46%

Detroit

2,236

58%

42%

Dover

895

61%

39%

Elkins Park

2,675

55%

45%

Eugene

1,726

62%

38%

Evanston

2,604

53%

47%

Evansville

1,754

52%

48%

Fargo

2,052

52%

48%

Fayetteville, NC

2,404

65%

35%

Flint

1,713

58%

42%

Florence

1,649

53%

47%

Fort Myers, FL

1,672

58%

42%

Fort Smith

1,659

58%

42%

Fort Wayne

1,611

50%

50%

Fort Worth

2,380

50%

50%

Franklin, TN

2,392

50%

50%

Fresno

755

64%

36%

Ft. Lauderdale

3,058

49%

51%

Grand Rapids

1,467

59%

41%

Greensboro

1,841

65%

35%

Greenville

2,276

61%

39%

Harrisburg

2,178

44%

56%

Hartford

1,679

49%

51%

Hattiesburg

2,700

43%

57%

Honolulu

422

78%

22%

Houston North

3,582

48%

52%

Houston West

2,846

53%

47%

Huntington, WV

742

48%

52%

Indianapolis

4,175

56%

44%

Jackson Ms OHO

1,570

51%

49%

Jacksonville

3,233

52%

48%

Jersey City

2,104

64%

36%

Johnstown

271

49%

51%

Kansas City

2,570

44%

56%

Kingsport

1,937

60%

40%

Knoxville

1,929

57%

43%

Lansing

2,002

51%

49%

Las Vegas

2,055

50%

50%

Lawrence, MA

1,501

52%

48%

Lexington

2,946

52%

48%

Little Rock

2,645

43%

57%

Livonia, MI

1,691

65%

35%

Long Beach

746

49%

51%

Long Island

1,605

66%

34%

Los Angeles Downtown

1,224

53%

47%

Los Angeles West

1,541

57%

43%

Louisville

2,951

54%

46%

Macon

1,479

45%

55%

Madison

1,437

58%

42%

Manchester

1,826

53%

47%

Mcalester

834

48%

52%

Memphis

1,714

57%

43%

Metairie

1,332

54%

46%

Miami OHO

1,642

62%

38%

Middlesboro

1,158

40%

60%

Milwaukee

2,700

49%

51%

Minneapolis

3,434

49%

51%

Mobile

3,170

63%

37%

Montgomery

2,335

64%

36%

Moreno Valley

1,376

59%

41%

Morgantown

1,556

49%

51%

Mt. Pleasant, MI

1,339

48%

52%

Nashville

1,447

61%

39%

New Haven

1,371

45%

55%

New Orleans

2,070

56%

44%

New York

2,127

60%

40%

New York Varick

929

70%

30%

Newark

2,735

53%

47%

NHC Albuquerque

1,632

47%

53%

NHC Baltimore

3,417

53%

47%

NHC Chicago

3,069

48%

52%

NHC Falls Church

3,165

51%

49%

NHC St. Louis

2,677

48%

52%

Norfolk

1,307

51%

49%

Norwalk

1,547

58%

42%

Oak Brook

1,690

51%

49%

Oak Park

2,453

72%

28%

Oakland

1,968

63%

37%

Oklahoma City

3,055

65%

35%

Omaha

1,828

55%

45%

Orange

1,640

50%

50%

Orland Park

2,533

43%

57%

Orlando

3,596

54%

46%

Paducah

1,237

53%

47%

Pasadena

680

69%

31%

Peoria

1,666

44%

56%

Philadelphia

1,612

50%

50%

Philadelphia East

1,167

52%

48%

Phoenix Downtown

1,694

40%

60%

Phoenix North

1,364

55%

45%

Pittsburgh

1,959

43%

57%

Ponce

587

79%

21%

Portland Me

996

56%

44%

Portland Or

2,821

58%

42%

Providence

762

47%

53%

Queens

1,490

65%

35%

Raleigh

3,135

58%

42%

Reno

302

51%

49%

Richmond

1,801

35%

65%

Rio Grande Valley, TX

439

44%

56%

Roanoke

1,102

57%

43%

Rochester

765

76%

24%

Sacramento

2,329

71%

29%

Salt Lake City

1,901

47%

53%

San Antonio

4,645

44%

56%

San Bernardino

1,833

57%

43%

San Diego

2,140

51%

49%

San Francisco

956

60%

40%

San Jose

758

66%

34%

San Juan

2,798

62%

38%

San Rafael

1,062

69%

31%

Santa Barbara

722

47%

53%

Savannah

1,542

44%

56%

Seattle

1,943

47%

53%

Seven Fields

2,157

62%

38%

Shreveport

857

57%

43%

South Jersey

2,013

61%

39%

Special Review Cadre

2,011

61%

39%

Spokane

1,767

58%

42%

Springfield, MA

876

49%

51%

Springfield, MO

1,594

38%

62%

St. Louis

1,760

53%

47%

St. Petersburg, FL OHO

2,834

52%

48%

Stockton

1,513

51%

49%

Syracuse

2,434

46%

54%

Tacoma

1,217

39%

61%

Tallahassee, FL OHO

1,565

62%

38%

Tampa OHO

3,601

62%

38%

Toledo, OH

2,361

51%

49%

Topeka, KS

649

37%

63%

Tucson

1,432

64%

36%

Tulsa OHO

1,747

63%

37%

Tupelo

1,832

63%

37%

Valparaiso, IN

1,929

52%

48%

Washington

1,344

48%

52%

West Des Moines

1,924

57%

43%

White Plains

2,287

62%

38%

Wichita

1,171

44%

56%

Wilkes Barre

2,822

46%

54%

10 hearing offices with the highest approval rates

There were 13 offices that approved at least 65% of disability claims in 2022. There were also six offices that approved at least 70% of claims:

  1. Ponce, Puerto Rico — 79% approval rate
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii — 78% approval rate
  3. Rochester, New York — 76% approval rate
  4. Oak Park, Michigan — 72% approval rate
  5. Sacramento, California — 71% approval rate
  6. Varick, New York — 70% approval rate
  7. San Rafael, California — 69% approval rate 
  8. Pasadena, California  — 69% approval rate
  9. Long Island, New York — 66% approval rate
  10. San Jose, California — 66% approval rate

Learn more about what to expect at a disability hearing.

10 hearing offices with the lowest approval rates

While most hearing offices approve at least half of all claims, there were 53 offices (32% of all offices) where less than 50% of hearings ended with approval. Below are the six offices with the lowest approval rates in 2022:

  1. Richmond, Virginia — 35% approval rate
  2. Colorado Springs, Colorado — 36% approval rate
  3. Topeka, Kansas — 37% approval rate
  4. Springfield, Missouri — 38% approval rate
  5. Tacoma, Washington — 39% approval rate
  6. Middlesboro, Kentucky — 40% approval rate
  7. Downtown Phoenix, Arizona — 40% approval rate
  8. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — 43% approval rate
  9. Orland Park, Illinois — 43% approval rate
  10. Hattiesburg, Mississippi — 43% approval rate

It’s important to note that not every judge in an office will approve or deny the same number of cases. For example, in the Richmond, Virginia, office there were nine judges who oversaw disability cases in 2022. Six of the nine judges had an approval rate of less than 40%, but the other three judges approved more than 50% of claims and one judge even approved more than 70% of claims. No matter which office handles a hearing case, which judge takes the case can make a big difference.

Related: How to prepare for a judge’s questions at a disability hearing


How to get help with your disability application

The unfortunate truth is that the disability application process is complicated, and it takes more than two years for most applicants. The best way to get help and to increase your chances of success is to work with a disability lawyer.

Involving a lawyer may seem strange, but they’re truly experts on the disability process. They can reduce your stress by guiding you through the process, but they can also do some of the heavy lifting so you don’t have to. They’ll help you fill out the application and work with you to gather the medical documents the SSA wants. A lawyer can file appeals for you and then represent you in a court in front of a judge. Overall, disability applicants with lawyers are three times more likely to win benefits.

Not every applicant needs a lawyer, so start with this disability benefits quiz. If it looks like your claim could benefit from professional help, we can match you with an experienced lawyer. You won’t have to work with the lawyer unless you want to and you’ll never have to pay the lawyer anything until after you win your disability claim.

Get paired with a top lawyer. Pay nothing until you win your case.

Frequently asked questions about getting approved for disability

How long does it take to get approved for disability?

Unfortunately, from the time you submit your application until you get approved for disability benefits takes more than two years on average. On the bright side, your first paycheck will include months or even years of back pay benefits.

Does my medical condition affect my chances of winning disability?

It is easier to qualify for Social Security disability benefits with certain conditions. For example, the SSA will automatically approve a terminal illness but is less likely to approve disability for mental health conditions like depression. Learn more about what conditions qualify for SSDI and SSI.

Can I increase my chances of winning benefits?

Your two best strategies for success are to have strong medical records and to get professional help from a disability lawyer. The SSA may approve your application faster if you have robust medical documentation of your condition. Applicants with lawyers are also three times more likely to win benefits.

Is it easier to apply for SSDI or SSI?

SSDI and SSI use the same application and have the same medical requirements. The technical requirements (income and work history) do vary by program. If you’re unsure which to apply for, try for both and let the SSA decide which you technically qualify for.

Which will pay me more, SSI or SSDI?

SSDI pays more than SSI. The maximum possible SSDI benefit is $3,822 in 2024 but the maximum SSI benefit is only $943. You’re unlikely to get the maximum though. Learn more about how SSDI and SSI are calculated.

Does where I live affect how much I get from SSDI or SSI?

No, where you live doesn’t affect how your disability benefits are calculated. Average benefits amounts do vary by location but that’s only because of differences in income, work history, or other personal factors.


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Photo of Derek Silva — Atticus Author

Derek Silva

Data Journalist and Content Lead

Derek is a writer and editor who has spent years covering disability benefits, taxes, and personal finances. He loves using data to tell stories, with his work being covered by Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider, and CNBC, among others. Derek has previously worked for SmartAsset and Policygenius. Follow him on Twitter @cylonderek
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