CPP Disability Approval Rates Explained [Infographic]

By David Brannen

How hard is it to win CPP disability benefits? What are the CPP disability approval rates?

I'm sure these questions have crossed your mind if you're in the process of trying to win CPP disability benefits, or if you're thinking of applying soon.

It’s hard to get good information on CPP disability approval rates. Lots of people have opinions on this —  many are misguided. Since claims are either approved or denied, approval rates are something we have hard data for. Service Canada has all the information, but it's not always easy for the public to access the data. 

In 2016, the Auditor General of Canada released a report that shed light on the CPP disability approval rates for the fiscal year 2014-15. You can read the full report here. This report was the result of a comprehensive review of the Canada Pension Plan disability program by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

The Auditor General’s report is packed with insights into the internal operations of the CPP disability program, but the information on approval rates is what I found most interesting and what I'll be sharing today.

Key findings

  • 69,075 people filed initial applications for CPP disability benefits
  • Of those initial applications, 57% (39,707) were denied and 43% (29,368) were approved 
  • Of the 39,707 people who got denied, only 13,159 filed for a Reconsideration appeal 
  • Service Canada denied 65% (8,498) of the Reconsideration appeals, and approved 35% (4,661)
  • Of the 8,498 who got denied at the Reconsideration Appeal, only 40% (3,325) filed an appeal with the Social Security Tribunal**
  • Service Canada then approved 6% (200) of cases before the Tribunal Hearing *
  • Of the cases that went to the Tribunal, 61% were approved and 39% were denied *

* The Report did not give exact figures. We had to make our best guess using the information given. We don't have access to the raw data from Service Canada, so we can only make our best guess.


We have presented CPP disability approval rate data in the following infographic:

CPP Disability Approval Rates InfographicConclusions 

  1. The approval rates are a snapshot in time
    The approval rates relate to the information the auditor general reviewed for the 2014-15 fiscal year. These rates of approval change each year, but the 2014-15 approval figures give us a good idea of what they might be in upcoming years. We expect approval rates going forward would remain close to these numbers, unless there were drastic changes to the program administration or adjudication process.
  1. There is a high initial denial rate...
    Service Canada denied almost sixty percent of initial application for disability benefits. This high denial rate likely reflects the fact that most people make the same big mistake in their CPP disability application. In my experience, you can significantly improve your chances of success by doing a better job with how you present your application and appeals.
  1. ... but don’t give up! 
    Sixty-six percent of people give up after getting denied on the first application! To me, this is the most shocking statistic from the Auditor General’s report. This means that 26,548 people who could have qualified for CPP disability missed out on winning disability payments because they gave up. It's easy to become discouraged and overwhelmed by the process. I've seen many deserving people lose at the first and second levels of appeal — only to win once we fix the problems with their application. Don't give up.
  1. If your initial CPP disability claim is denied, hire a disability lawyer ASAP
    I'm a disability lawyer. I know that it might seem self-serving for me to tell you to consult or hire a lawyer. I routinely get trolls on Facebook telling me everyone can win without a lawyer — "If you are honest, then you will win," etc. This is one of the big misconceptions about disability claims. Many people believe their claim will be approved on the "truth" of the situation — you are either disabled or you aren't, and if you are, then of course you'll get approved. 

    This type of thinking is misguided. You don't win a disability claim based on the truth as you know it; rather, you win based on how well the truth of your situation is reflected in the paperwork you give to the CPP disability adjudicators and tribunal judges. You may also win or lose based on the actions you have taken — or not taken. If you haven't given them the right documents, and you haven't taken the right actions, you will lose, regardless of if you are actually disabled or not.


Our numbers speak for themselves. 61% of people were approved at the Social Security Tribunal Hearing in 2014-15. This includes people representing themselves and those with lawyers or other advocates. If we were to break out the success rate of self-represented people at the Tribunal, I expect it would be much lower than the 61% average. We have been able to achieve better approval rates for our clients.

Our current approval rate for clients is over 95% for appeals that went to a final determination, and covers all cases we have ever handled. This far exceeds the 61% overall approval rate seen from the Auditor General’s Report. We're not performing magic; we're simply using a proven system that works to allow our clients to put their best foot forward.

I have shared our process in our Guide: The CPP Disability Approval Blueprint Formula.

Disclaimer:  Resolute Legal always strives to be fully transparent in our information and marketing. While we achieved a success rate of over 95%, this does not mean that we would have a 95% chance of winning your specific CPP disability case or appeal. We are not promising that, and we cannot use past results to predict future success. These results are simply a snapshot of the past cases we handled. Our success rate will go up and down over time based on several factors, including the difficulty of the individual cases we take. For example, it is possible for a lawyer to achieve artificially high success rate, if that lawyer only takes on cases that are a “sure thing.” We take on many cases — even those that are challenging and far from a sure thing. We believe our high success rate is result of the CPP Disability Approval Blueprint System we developed and use to prepare cases for appeals and tribunal hearings.

Next Steps

Feeling unsure about appealing a CPP disability claim denial? Have you missed an appeal deadline and not sure what to do next? Sometimes a quick call with us can answer your concerns and help you move forward with confidence. Call us now at 888-303-4880 for a free consultation or click here to book online. All consultations are by phone.


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Tags: CPP Disability

David Brannen
Founder & Managing Lawyer, Resolute Legal
As Resolute Legal's managing lawyer, David spends his days representing people with disability claims and overseeing other disability lawyers within the firm. David is a former occupational therapist and is one of the few lawyers in Canada who focus exclusively on disability-related claims. David is the author of A Beginner's Guide to Disability Insurance Claims in Canada and The Beginner's Guide to CPP Disability.