Kenner Disability Attorney Explains the Difference Between ALJ Rulings in Social Security Disability Cases: Fully Favorable vs. Unfavorable vs. Partially Favorable

You have had your hearing.  You get your decision in the mail.  You open it up and right under your name and address you hopefully see: “NOTICE OF DECISION – FULLY FAVORABLE.”


What does this actually mean? Are you going to get your social security disability benefits or not?

Sure, you can read through the whole letter, but that is long and confusing.  You want a short answer.

Well, the short answer is this:

  • Fully Favorable – your claim was granted and the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) accepted your onset date.  This is the decision you want. This means you get everything you asked for in your application.  Of course, the Appeals Council can review the decision, but the chances of that are small.  You should receive a letter from the payment processing center a few weeks after your decision and the letter will tell you how much your back benefits are as well as your monthly benefit.  You will probably receive your first monthly check prior to receiving your back benefits.
  • Partially Favorable – usually, a partially favorable decision means that the ALJ agreed that you were disabled, but changed the onset date to a later time.  This is good and bad.  You should get benefits, but your back benefits will be less because the onset date was changed.  Also, with a partially favorable decision, you need to see if the onset date was changed to a date after your date last insured because if so, you may only be entitled to SSI benefits and not SSDI.  You may need to appeal certain aspects of a partially favorable decision.
  • Unfavorable – no one wants to see this, but it does happen.  This decision means that the ALJ did not find you disabled and you will not be getting benefits.  You can appeal this decision.  The first level of appeal is to the Appeals Council and then you appeal to Federal Court if your claim is still denied.  Many cases that were initially ruled as unfavorable by an ALJ have been overturned either by the Appeals Council, a Federal Court, or by another ALJ.  Whether or not you will be successful on an appeal of an unfavorable decision depends on the facts of your case, the ALJ’s rationale for the decision, the regulations and the law.
  • Dismissed – a dismissal may sometimes be issued by an ALJ as well.  In this decision, your case is dismissed without a decision.  This can happen when you don’t go to the hearing, when you filed your appeal too late without good reason, or when your case has already been decided and you have no new evidence.  A dismissal can be appealed to the Appeals Council or Federal Court.

Of course, there is much more that could be written on the effect and result with each type of decision.  But, the above is meant as a short overview of the most common decisions given by ALJs in social security disability claims.

This post was created by Greater New Orleans SSDI attorney and long-term disability lawyer Loyd J. Bourgeois on Louisiana Disability Law and is for educational purposes only. The social security disability or long-term disability information provided here is no substitute for speaking with or seeking assistance from a Louisiana lawyer familiar with social security disability claims or long-term disability claims.
4 Responses to Kenner Disability Attorney Explains the Difference Between ALJ Rulings in Social Security Disability Cases: Fully Favorable vs. Unfavorable vs. Partially Favorable
  1. Michael King
    September 13, 2012 | 8:01 AM

    Your website is very informative. But i have a question , who or what determines the amount of SSI a person receives?

  2. Loyd Bourgeois
    September 18, 2012 | 12:44 PM

    Michael, SSI and SSDI payments are different. The Social Security Administration will determine your SSDI payments based on your previous earnings. Please check out these posts for explanations: If I am approved for SSDI benefits, how much will I get? and SSI vs SSDI

  3. Vivian Ruffin
    November 23, 2012 | 12:43 PM

    Hello, My name is Vivian Ruffin I recevied a letter from the Disability Office and, the Judge made an decision on my case and, said its Unfavorable I really don’t know what that means am not able to work at all I really need some help I have a lawyler but, I don’t know what I need to do from here.

  4. Loyd Bourgeois
    November 27, 2012 | 2:51 PM

    Ms. Ruffin:

    Since you have a lawyer, you need to speak with your attorney about your case specifically. Generally speaking, your options after a denial or unfavorable decision are to (1) appeal to the Appeals Council for review of the ALJ decision or (2) not appeal and refile a new claim. Your attorney will be in the best position to advise you based on the specifics of your case.


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