Decline in Social Security Disability Applications

Despite the media’s focus on the large numbers of disabled workers applying for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), the actual numbers tell quite a different story. For each the past five years, since 2010, the number of applications for disability benefits from people who have been employed has declined. In 2010, approximately 2,935,800 disabled workers filed disability applications. By 2014, that number had dropped to about 2,521,400. This represents a decrease of over 400,000 disabled applicants during a time when the aging of baby boomers in the workforce would have predicted the opposite result.

A more striking finding is seen in the declining percentage of claimants who were actually awarded disability benefits in response to their applications. For the past 10 years, since 2005, that percentage has been steadily dwindling. In 2005, the percentage of applications approved was 39.1%. By 2014, that percentage had declined to 32.2%. Put another way, out of every 100 applicants for Social Security disability benefits, only 32 were awarded benefits in 2014, representing less than 1/3 of total claimants.

Our firm experiences a much higher rate of approved applications for our clients, compared to the general statistics reported in the chart below. Primarily, this is because we are able to assist our clients and their treating physicians in understanding the “target”, i.e., the standard of disability which SSA uses for a person with that client’s unique health problems, and the client’s age and work history.

Our clients who first retain our firm at a time when their applications for disability have been already been denied generally have no choice but to appeal through the reconsideration and, if necessary, hearing levels. SSA regulations permit 60 days to file appeals. However, it is important that clients whose applications have been denied contact us immediately so that we can file all necessary appeals as soon as possible.

Number of Applications, Awards, and Awards as Percent of Applications, 2005-2014

[Numbers in thousands]

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Source: Social Security Administration