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5 Signs That You Will Be Approved for Disability in 2024

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published December 19, 2023
Updated May 3, 2024
5 min read

If you’re applying for Social Security disability, you probably already know how tedious and time-consuming this process can be.

Most applicants wait seven to eight months between applying and getting an initial decision. It takes even longer if your application is denied and you move forward with a hearing. And throughout the whole process, you’re left to wait and wonder which way the decision will swing.

If you’re looking for signs your disability claim will be approved, these most likely won’t come from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Instead, pull back the lens to look at your situation as a whole — considering factors like your medical condition(s), age, and work history.

These can clue you into what constitutes a “good case” for disability, according to the SSA.

Get an honest assessment of your chances of winning benefits.

Key takeaways:

Here are five promising signs that the SSA will approve your application for disability:

  1. You regularly see a specialist

  2. You’ve been hospitalized for your condition

  3. You’re over 50 years old

  4. You had a physically demanding job

  5. You don’t have an advanced degree

You can still qualify for Social Security disability benefits if a few or none of these things are true. Read more about qualifying in our deep dive on SSDI/SSI eligibility.

1. You regularly see a specialist

If you regularly see a specialist for medical treatment, this is a good sign the SSA will approve your claim. Receiving regular treatment from a medical professional shows that you’re putting effort into trying to improve or manage your condition.

"Receiving specialist care for your medical conditions shows that you're trying to improve or manage your condition," says Sarah Aitchison, a lawyer at Atticus. "The SSA loves to see that, and it can really help bolster your claim."

It’s also helpful to know that certain conditions make it easier to apply for disability. For instance, maybe you’ve lost mobility and can’t sit or stand. You either need to move around constantly, or you need to recline. This makes for a very strong case.

You also have a better chance of receiving disability if you have a disabling condition that won’t get better — it’s only going to get worse. Some examples of chronic conditions that are often degenerative include:

People with conditions like these are more likely to be approved at the application phase.

A small subset of cases, called “listing level,” tend to qualify for disability automatically. These include impairments like:

However, these automatic qualifications make up a very small number of cases.

FYI: You’re three times more likely to be approved for disability benefits with legal help. Atticus can match you (for free) with a vetted lawyer who’s best positioned to win your case. Take our quick intake quiz to get started.

2. You’ve been hospitalized

Another promising sign your Social Security disability claim will be approved: You’ve spent time in the hospital for your condition. This is true for both physical and mental conditions.

If you’re seeking disability for a mental condition, severe mental health crises show the extent of your condition. Medical documentation of hospitalizations and intensive outpatient treatment is helpful to share. These help get across the gravity of your case.

3. You’re over 50

The older you are, the easier it is for your disability claim to be approved.

Your SSA claim is more likely to go through if you’re over 50. If you’re over 60, things get even easier. In the eyes of the government, your age makes you “less trainable.”

For example, maybe you worked in a field requiring physical labor you can no longer do. If you were younger, the government might suggest you could get an office job. If you’re older, however, they most likely will not.

Certain skills don’t transfer well to other positions. The SSA states that transferability is most probable among jobs where:

  • The same or a lesser degree of skill is required

  • The same or similar machines or tools are used

  • The same or similar raw materials, products, processes, or services are involved

If you worked as a welder, you might not immediately have the skills needed for an office job. Mining, agriculture, and fishing are other vocations so specialized that associated skills are not readily usable in other industries, jobs, and work settings.

"The government thinks it is less likely that you're going to pick up a new skill or retrain for a different career at this point and they take that into consideration when reviewing your case," says Sarah.

4. You had a physically demanding job

If your past work includes a physically demanding job that your body is no longer able to handle, this could set you up for success with your disability claim.

When the SSA considers your disability application, they look at something called your physical residual functional capacity (RFC). To determine your RFC, the SSA uses your medical evidence to determine your level or limitation.

Depending on your ability to stand, walk, sit, lift, carry, and bend, the SSA will sort you into one of five categories:

  • Sedentary

  • Light

  • Medium

  • Heavy

  • Very heavy

The more physical work you can do, the higher placement (“heavy” or “very heavy”) you’ll receive.

If your physical limitations mean you can no longer work your previous job (and your education or age prevents you from doing a different type of work), this is one of the best signs your disability claim will be approved.

5. You don’t have an advanced degree

If you don’t have an advanced degree, this is another good sign of getting approved for disability. A lower level of education means you may not be able to work in a more specialized position that requires certain skills.

To be eligible for disability benefits, you must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) for at least 12 consecutive months. Someone earning more than a certain monthly amount is considered to be engaging in SGA. A lack of higher education might limit you from landing higher-paying positions that would count as SGA.

The SSA uses materials published by the Department of Labor to classify occupations as unskilled, semiskilled, and skilled. According to those guidelines:

  • Unskilled work can be learned on the job in a short period of time (30 days). You don’t need to prepare or train for this specific job.

  • Semiskilled work needs some skills but doesn’t involve more complex work duties.

  • Skilled work requires qualifications that will help you figure out machine operations or deal with complex abstract ideas.

If your case goes to the hearing phase, you can use your level of education to prove why other jobs — “skilled work” that counts as SGA — won’t apply to you.

Signs your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim will be approved

If you’re still unsure whether you have a good case for disability, we’d love to help. Here at Atticus, we provide legal advice at no cost — and if your disability claim goes to hearing, we can connect you with a Social Security disability lawyer from our network of vetted attorneys. Take our 2-minute quiz to find out if you qualify.

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

Frequently asked questions

How will I know if I got approved for disability benefits? 

How the SSA will notify you of your approval or denial depends on where you are in the application process. If you’ve just applied, you’ll receive your decision in the mail with a confirmation of your approval or an explanation of why you were denied. If you’ve had a trial, you’ll also receive a decision in the mail — but your attorney will likely hear back from the SSA first.

What are signs that I’ll be approved for disability? 

Unfortunately, the SSA doesn’t give “hints.” Denials don’t come more quickly than approvals, a consultative exam isn’t a “good” or “bad” sign, and requests for supplemental paperwork are standard practice. The best way to know if you’ll be approved is to consider the strength of your case and your application. This article explains what makes for a stronger case.

How long does it take to get approved for disability? 

Getting approved for disability can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. You'll get a decision on your initial application within five to six months. If you’re rejected, you can appeal the decision by filing for reconsideration. If you’re rejected again, you can attend a hearing and have to wait for a hearing date. 

What conditions automatically approve you for disability? 

Some conditions (Compassionate Allowance conditions or TERI conditions) automatically medically qualify you for disability benefits. You must still meet the income and/or work history requirements to be approved. 

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Related resources:

What Conditions Qualify for Disability?

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

Everything You Should Know About Disability Benefits (SSDI and SSI)

By Sarah Aitchison

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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