I just returned from the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) fall seminar in Las Vegas. One of the presenters at the conference passed along the following: Approval rates at hearing in 2007 was 62% and in 2013 it is 48%. From what I heard, this marks an all-time low for approval ratings in those cases heard by a a judge. Keep in mind, the approval ratings for decisions that have not yet reached the judge (initial application, request for reconsideration) are even lower. If you combine all the numbers from initial application through hearing level, I suspect the overall approval rate is below 40%. There are competing theories as to why these numbers are so low. It certainly appears that Social Security is taking affirmative steps to lower the approval rates. With numbers like these, I think it is more important than ever to make sure you are represented when you apply for disability benefits. The days of applying on your own and expecting a good result seem to have slipped into the past.