A favorable decision, in the context of Social Security disability claims, is an approval of disability benefits. More specifically, the term "favorable decision" refers to an approval granted by an administrative law judge (ALJ) at a disability appeal hearing.
If you are approved for benefits, you will receive a hearing decision letter in which the ALJ who granted you the favorable ruling explains both the reasons for the ruling and the established date of onset (EOD), which determines the date from which you are owed disability benefits.
Fully favorable decision. In a fully favorable decision, a judge approves a disability case and grants an established onset date that is in full agreement with the onset date "alleged" (claimed) by the applicant (this is called the alleged onset date, or AOD).
Partially favorable decision. In a partially favorable decision, the applicant is granted disability benefits but the judge sets the EOD later than the date alleged by the applicant on the disability application (AOD). A partially favorable decision can also be an approval for a "closed period" of benefits. This happens when the ALJ determines that the applicant was disabled for a period of time, but is no longer disabled. (For more information, see our article on disability benefits for closed periods.)
Practical difference. When an EOD is set later than the AOD, the total amount in past due back payments or retroactive benefits that a claimant might receive is often reduced. In many cases, the difference between the EOD and the AOD can amount to several thousand dollars in back payments, so it may be worth it to appeal a partially favorable decision.
Learn more about appealing a change in onset date.