Almost a million Alabama residents are 50-64 years old — the perfect age to collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. That’s nearly 19% of the state’s population! However, just 4.4% qualified for Alabama disability through the SSDI program in 2020. Another 3% received Alabama disability payments from the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. You may qualify for Alabama disability if health problems force you to stop working before you’re old enough to retire.
Two Programs Offer Alabama Disability Benefits
You may qualify for monthly Alabama disability benefits from one of these two federal programs:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
They screen applicants using the exact same medical criteria, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) manages both programs. However, the similarities between these programs end there. To make things easier, you can use one form to apply for Alabama disability through both programs. Just check one box, and the SSA will screen your application for both programs at the same time! It’s important to remember that most people only qualify for SSDI or SSI, not both. Only widowed spouses or dependent children/parents can typically draw benefits off two different work records at once.
Related: Kentucky Disability Benefits: Learn How to Qualify for 2022
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): How to Apply, Qualify & Average Monthly Payments
The first program, SSDI, is a federal disability insurance program funded through your Social Security payroll taxes. (These are also commonly referred to as FICA taxes.) For this reason, the SSDI program only pays Alabama disability to Americans aged 18-64. Below, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about SSDI so you’ll know what to expect.
1. Who’s Eligible to Apply for SSDI Benefits?
If you answer every question below with a “yes,” file your SSDI claim for Alabama disability benefits today:
- Have you paid Social Security taxes while working full-time jobs for at least 5 out of the last 10 years? This is the first step in qualifying for the SSDI program’s Alabama disability benefits. Since SSDI is a federal disability insurance program, your coverage ends after 60 months if you stop working. The SSA automatically denies claims from people who haven’t worked recently or enough years to meet this SSDI requirement.
- Will your health problems specifically force you to stop working more than a year? SSDI rules say your mental or physical condition must last at least 12 months or result in death. In addition, your health must prevent you from doing your current job duties or earning similar wages anywhere else. The SSDI program won’t pay you Alabama disability benefits for health problems that improve in less than 12 months.
- Have you seen a doctor to treat your condition recently? Ideally, your last doctor’s visit was in the last 90 days before filing your SSDI claim. Otherwise, a Disability Determination Services (DDS) exam must confirm you meet the SSDI program’s definition of “disabled.” If you haven’t seen a doctor lately, talk to a lawyer before filing your SSDI claim for Alabama disability!
- Are you currently 18-64 years old? SSDI is an insurance program that working-age Americans pay premiums for through paycheck deductions. Once you reach your FRA, any Alabama disability payments you get through SSDI convert into regular Social Security. Read this to learn why nobody can draw both Social Security retirement and Alabama disability checks at once.
For people with any “no” answers, skip to the SSI program’s Alabama disability benefits section now.
2. How Long Does It Usually Take To Get Your First SSDI Check?
Six months from your SSDI application date is the soonest anyone gets their first Alabama disability payment. The SSA takes about 3-5 months to review each SSDI claim for Alabama disability benefits. That includes the five-month mandatory waiting period under federal law. However, most people filing SSDI claims wait closer to 2 years for their first Alabama disability payment. Having a lawyer file your SSDI claim makes you nearly 3x more likely to get benefits on your first try. Legally, no lawyer can charge you anything until after the SSA’s already approved you for Alabama disability benefits. Today, SSDI applications for Alabama disability benefits take 419 days to process, on average. That’s more than a year!
The SSA denies 2 in every 5 SSDI claims due to basic mistakes people make on the application. If that happens, you have 60 days to appeal your denial in writing. Reconsideration, the first appeal step, takes about 100 days to finish. Only 2% of claimants get Alabama disability benefits after reconsideration. If you have to appeal a second time, you’ll schedule an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing. Unfortunately, hearings have pretty long wait times. In Montgomery, you’ll wait 13 months for your court date to arrive, on average. The average wait time in Florence, on the other hand, is 10 months. Your first Alabama disability check could take 2 or longer if you win benefits on appeal.
3. How Much Does SSDI Pay Approved Alabama Disability Claimants Each Month?
The highest Alabama disability payment you can get through the SSDI program in 2022 is $3,345/month. Only claimants who earned $132,000+ annually before becoming disabled get that much. Disabled workers nationwide receive $1,358 in SSDI benefits each month, on average. The only way to increase your benefit amount is through an annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) in certain years.
4. Can I Keep Getting SSDI Payments for Life?
Unfortunately, no. If the SSA approves your SSDI claim, you must pass another disability update every 3-7 years. This means proving your condition hasn’t improved enough for you to go back to work. Once you reach full retirement age, your Alabama disability benefits convert into regular Social Security retirement. You’ll get paid the same amount and don’t need to complete any paperwork to make this happen. But if the SSA determines you’re no longer disabled before that birthday passes, they’ll terminate your SSDI payments.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): How to Apply, Qualify & Average Monthly Payments
The federal SSI program often pays benefits to people who don’t meet all SSDI requirements. The SSI program’s rules require very low income and almost no assets to qualify for payments. Below, we’ll explain SSI eligibility requirements, payment amounts and more.
1. You Must Be Blind, Disabled or Aged 65+ to Qualify for SSI
Both the SSDI and SSI programs define “disabled” the same way. So, if you can’t pass one program’s medical exam, the other won’t approve you, either. You must submit convincing medical evidence to support your SSI claim for Alabama disability. If you wait to apply until after your 65th birthday, age alone helps you meet these medical requirements.
2. Alabama Disability Claimants Need Very Low Income and Almost No Assets to Qualify for SSI
The SSI program requires every Alabama disability applicant to pass a financial eligibility test. To do this, you can’t earn more than $1,350/month from working. Not working right now? Your passive income must fall below that amount, too. Passive income includes things like alimony or child support payments, lottery winnings, earned interest, etc. You also can’t have more than $2,000 in your bank account when you apply. That money counts towards your total asset limit, along with jewelry, stocks, bonds or anything easily sold for cash. However, not all things count towards your asset limit, such as:
- The house you own and the land it’s on, if you live there
- One vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, boat) for daily transportation
- Wedding ring, furniture, clothing, other daily living items (appliances, bedding, towels)
Essentially, you can’t get SSI if you have too much stuff or get money from other sources already. Married couples need less than $3,000 in assets and $1,350 in combined monthly income to qualify for SSI.
3. SSI Payments Max Out at $841/Person, $1,261/Couple Each Month
The SSI program also provides a Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) increase in certain years. If you’re younger than 65, you’ll need to pass SSI disability updates every 3-7 years to keep your payments. But once that birthday passes, you’ll never have to worry about passing that SSI requirement again. As long as you meet the program’s financial eligibility requirements, you can keep your SSI payments for life.
What About Temporary or Short-Term Alabama Disability Benefits?
You can only get short-term or temporary Alabama disability benefits through an employer’s benefits plan (if they’re available). Or, you can purchase your own private disability insurance, but the coverage won’t apply to your condition once you’re already disabled.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
An Alabama disability lawyer makes you nearly 3x more likely to qualify for benefits on your first try. A qualified Social Security attorney can answer all your claim questions for free before you apply. All Alabama disability lawyers work on contingency. That means they can’t charge you anything for legal assistance until after your claim’s approved. And if you do win because a lawyer helped you, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee. It’s federal law!
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!
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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.