Is it worthwhile to appeal a denied SSDI benefits claim?

Every worker makes payroll contributions to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Workers accrue credits based on their contributions. Those funds help to support retirement benefits for older adults and also several specialized disability programs.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are a crucial safety net for those who are struggling with a disabling medical condition during the years wherein they are too young for retirement. People who can no longer work to support themselves due to disabling medical conditions can apply for SSDI benefits to help cover their cost-of-living expenses.

Unfortunately, the standards to qualify for SSDI benefits are quite high, and applicants may struggle with paperwork and complicated medical record requirements. Quite a few people who seek SSDI support receive rejection notices instead of benefits. Is appealing after an initial rejection worth someone’s effort?

A substantial number of applicants secure benefits via an appeal

Only a minority of the people who apply for SSDI get approved for benefits, and the majority never receive anything. Based on the SSA’s internal data about application outcomes between 2010 and 2019, only 31% of applicants ever get benefits. However, when looking at those who get benefits, it becomes very obvious how valuable the SSDI appeals process actually is.

Of the roughly 31% of annual applicants approved on average for benefits, about a third of those approved will have been successful only when appealing the initial decision. The initial approval rate is only 21%, which means that 10% of applicants get benefits because they appealed.

Backdated benefits are available after an appeal

If someone applies for SSDI and fails, they could reapply or appeal. Although reapplying may seem faster, it is beneficial because it increases the potential duration of benefits. Waiting for an appeal means a worker can get benefits for many months all at once.

An applicant who appeals could potentially get benefits starting when they first qualified, which might mean a large payment after a successful appeal. Those who reapply will not qualify for those backdated benefits upon approval.

Both because of the enhanced payments possible and due to the large number of applicants whose efforts are not initially approved but result in subsequent success, an SSDI benefits appeal can be a smart move for someone who is struggling to make ends meet because of a disabling medical condition.