The Best and Worst States to Apply for a Disability

If your social security disability claim got denied, it may be that you didn’t qualify for SSA’s disability standard. Or you just happen to live in the wrong state.

Yes, you read it right. Your medical condition and eligibility aren’t the only determining factors. Apparently, where you live also affects your chances of getting approved for disability benefits.

While social security has a reputation for denying most disability claims, the denial statistics can vary per state. In certain states, it’s relatively easy to get disability approval. While in others, the approval rate is so low that most applicants almost always expect a denial.

The SSA’s Denial Statistics

As mentioned, the SSA is known to have a high rate of denial for disability benefits. In fact, 62% of all disability benefit claims are denied at the initial application stage. While denial ratings for those who requested for reconsideration are as high as 87%. When you’re denied at this stage, you can appeal for a hearing with the administrative law judge (ALJ). But about 37% of all hearing appeals are also denied.

But why does the SSA deny so many disability claims?

It’s because people have tried to trick the system countless times before. Disability fraud is very much real and it’s costing the taxpayers billions of dollars per year. Not to mention that it deprives those who really need these benefits.

On the other hand, the agency’s stringent measures also tend to defeat its purpose. Because it can be very hard to get approved, disabled workers whom the SSA is supposed to help are often turned out in the cold. With no work and no other source of income, they have to rely on the generosity of the people around them. But most of the time, this isn’t enough.

The Best States to Apply for Disability

Even though the SSA’s disability benefits came from federal funds, the approval process happens at the state level. Hence, the varying rates of approval.

So what state is easiest to get disability from?

If we just look at the numbers, we’d say Hawaii is the place to be if you’re applying for disability. But there are a lot of factors affecting a state’s disability approval rating. An individual’s medical condition and eligibility also have to be taken into account. So, it’s hard to make a sweeping answer.

But if we’ll rely on statistics alone, you have a much higher chance of getting approved if you’re living in any of these states:

1. Hawaii

Approval rating: 67%

At 67%, Hawaii has the highest disability approval rating in the country. This means that more than half of its total disability claims are approved. This island state also has one of the lowest percentage of disabled people in the country.

Because of its relatively small population, the state’s disability welfare centers are readily available for whoever needs them.

2. Utah

Approval rating: 63%

Like Hawaii, Utah also has fewer disabled individuals than the rest of the country. Despite this, it has one of the highest disability approval ratings. The state also has various welfare programs for disabled individuals of all ages.

3. New Mexico

Approval rating: 56%

New Mexico’s disabled population is about as much as the national average. But most of them are either children or over 65 years old. In fact, the state has the highest percentage of children and seniors who are receiving disability.

4. New Jersey

Approval rating: 56%

With a high approval rate and a relatively low percentage of disabled individuals, New Jersey’s disabled population is well taken cared of. The state also has various programs and private organizations dedicated to helping the differently-abled.

5. Tennessee

Approval rating: 54%

Unlike the other states in this list, Tennessee has a relatively large disabled population. In fact, its disability percentage is higher than the national average. Despite this, it ranked fifth in terms of approving disability claims.

A map of the United States of America showing the best and worst states for obtaining social security disability.

The Worst States to Apply for Disability

If there are states that approve more than half of all its disability claims, there are also those where you’ll most likely get a denial. Here are the five hardest states to get disability from:

1. Alaska

Approval rating: 17%

For the past few years, Alaska has consistently lower approval ratings than the rest of the country. On the bright side, you’ll only have to wait an average of 14 months for a hearing as opposed to the national average of 19 months.

2. Kansas

Approval rating: 33%

Most of the denials in Kansas happen during the reconsideration stage. Only 18% of those who appealed for a reconsideration are approved.

3. Delaware

Approval rating: 35%

In the past few years, approval ratings have improved significantly in Delaware. In fact, it’s almost at par with the national average. But it is still one of the lowest in the country which landed them on this list.

4. Wisconsin

Approval rating: 35%

Like Delaware, Wisconsin’s approval rating is comparable to the national average. But it is still low when compared to other states. The state, however, has a 19% approval rate for reconsideration requests which is significantly higher than the national average.

5. Rhode Island

Approval rating: 36%

Compared to some states, Rhode Island has a relatively short processing time. Applicants only have to wait an average of 11 months before they’ll receive a final decision. But it only approves about 36% of the total claims – slightly higher than the national average.


Victor Malca Law has over 25 years of litigation experience, we are the most trusted workers’ compensation lawyers in Florida. Our area of expertise is in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claim social security disability benefits.

Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are also recognized by our peers. Book a free consultation today.

Judy Ponio is a writer for Victor Malca LawAbout The Author

is a writer for Victor Malca Law P.A. and enjoys helping people with questions about social security, workers compensation, and other serious matters involving people’s livelihood. She is not an attorney and her writing should not be considered legal advice.

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