Almost 3.6 million people currently live in Connecticut. Of those, nearly 22% of the state’s population is currently 50-64 years old (775,201 residents). Once you turn 50, it gets much easier qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits! Yet in December 2018, just 2.3% received monthly Connecticut disability benefits from the federal SSDI program. Another 1.7% qualified for the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program’s monthly benefits. If you must stop working at least 12 months due to health problems, then you may qualify for Connecticut disability. Right now, two federal as well as two state-run programs offer cash benefits to eligible disabled applicants. So, which program’s most likely to approve you? And how many different payments can you qualify for each month? Learn how these programs work (including which order to file your applications in) to maximize your Connecticut disability benefits below.
Tips to Maximize Your Connecticut Disability Payments
Four different programs currently provide monthly Connecticut disability payments to qualified applicants. However, you cannot receive money from all four at the same time. Importantly, both state-run programs only approve claims from people who’ve already applied for benefits at the federal level first. For this reason, we’ll walk you through those two programs first. Then, we’ll explain how to navigate the two state-run programs that provide Connecticut disability benefits.
Most people should file claims for Connecticut disability benefits in the following order:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Connecticut State-Administered General Assistance (SAGA)
- Connecticut’s SSI State Supplement (SSP)
The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages the first two federal programs, SSDI and SSI. Luckily, you can use just one claim form to apply to both these programs at once. Just check one box on your application to ensure the SSA screens you for both at the same time.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): Who’s Covered, Eligibility Rules & Average Payment Amounts
Before we go any further, know that SSDI only covers disabilities lasting for one year or longer and terminal illnesses. (In other words, you can’t get SSDI to cover joint replacement surgery or use it as maternity leave.) Instead, it’s designed to help people younger than 65 who become too disabled to keep working tap into their Social Security money. Below, we answer the most frequently asked questions about SSDI.
1. Who’s Eligible to Apply for SSDI?
Don’t want to waste time filing a SSDI claim if you’re not eligible? We don’t blame you! If you answer “yes” to every question below, you likely meet all SSDI eligibility requirements:
- Did you work full-time jobs for 5 in the last 10 years that took FICA taxes out of your paychecks? SSDI is a federal disability insurance program, and your FICA taxes pay that policy’s premiums. Once you stop working for five years (60 months) in a row, that coverage automatically lapses. Also, some employers don’t normally include FICA deductions in their payroll taxes. Unionized jobs (teachers, firemen), federal employees and service-industry workers (Realtors, bartenders) are usually exempt.
- Does your doctor say your condition won’t improve for at least one year — and that it stops you from working? Both these things must be true for your condition to fit the SSDI program’s definition of “disability.” So if you need to miss three months of work for total hip replacement surgery, you probably won’t qualify. Terminal illnesses, almost without exception, should always count as a disability under SSDI program rules.
- Did your doctor diagnose or treat your condition within the last 90 days? This isn’t a hard-and-fast requirement for Connecticut disability, but it definitely helps! Otherwise, your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) must confirm you’re truly too disabled to work at an independent medical exam.
- Are you currently at least 18, but younger than full retirement age? SSDI specifically provides benefits to Americans aged 18-retirement age. Once you reach your full retirement age (FRA) at 66 or 67, SSDI automatically converts into regular Social Security.
If you can’t qualify for SSDI, then the SSI program’s Connecticut disability benefits may still be available to you.
2. How Long Does That First SSDI Payment Usually Take?
Six months from your SSDI application date is the soonest you’ll get your first Connecticut disability payment. The SSA says it takes them 3-5 months to review each claim. This review also typically covers the mandatory five-month waiting period required under federal law. Unfortunately, it takes at least a year for the SSA to approve most Connecticut disability applicants’ claims on appeal. That’s because most people wrongly believe that they don’t need a Connecticut disability lawyer to get benefits. Last year, the SSDI program approved just 19% of first-time applicants. Having a lawyer file your SSDI application makes you 2x more likely to get approved right away!
Think you can’t afford a lawyer? All Social Security attorneys work on contingency. That means you’ll pay $0 for legal assistance if you don’t get approved. Right now, SSDI claims for Connecticut disability benefits take 391 days to process, on average. If you apply on your own without a lawyer, you could wait 17 months or longer for your first check. If you’re denied, you have 60 days to appeal that decision in writing.
The first appeal step is called reconsideration, which adds another 100 days to your average wait time. If you’re denied, you have 60 days to appeal that decision. Now you’re 150+ days out from when you applied, but just 2% of claimants win benefits at reconsideration. But if you’re denied at this stage, you have another 60 days to appeal again. Scheduling a court date with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is the next step in appealing your denial. But you’ll need to wait another 13 months, on average, for your court date. If the Connecticut disability judge awards you benefits, you’ll wait at least 21 months for your first SSDI check!
3. How Much Does the SSDI Program Pay Approved Connecticut Disability Claimants Each Month?
The SSDI program’s highest monthly benefit amount for 2020 is $3,011/month. However, $1,258 is the average payment most disabled workers currently get nationwide. And how much SSDI money you get completely depends on how much you earned each month while working. The SSA averages your highest wages earned over a 35-year work history, then adjusts that amount for inflation. The SSDI program pays about 40% of that average monthly paycheck amount in Connecticut disability benefits. (This is the exact same formula the SSA uses to calculate regular Social Security retirement.) Every October, the SSA announces whether or not the federal government approved a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase for the upcoming year. In approved years, your Connecticut disability payments will go up a certain percentage.
4. Are SSDI Payments to Approved Connecticut Disability Claimants Permanent?
Unfortunately, no. Every 3-7 years, the SSDI program pauses your Connecticut disability benefits until it confirms you’re still unable to work. This is called a disability update report. As long as you can pass, you’ll get to keep your monthly payments without any hiccups. The SSDI program requires these routine updates until you reach your full retirement age (FRA). Once that birthday passes, your Connecticut disability automatically converts into Social Security retirement benefits. The dollar amount you get each month won’t change, and you don’t need to fill out any additional forms. But if the SSA decides you’re able to work before your FRA, your Connecticut disability checks stop immediately.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Who’s Covered, Eligibility Rules & Average Payment Amounts
The federal SSI program only pays benefits to the poorest Americans who are blind, disabled or 65 and older. Many people aren’t eligible for SSDI because they haven’t worked recently, long enough or in the right jobs to qualify. You’ll also need very little income and almost no resources to meet the SSI program’s eligibility requirements. Learn more about the SSI program’s rules before you apply and average payment amounts below.
1. You Must Be Blind, Disabled or Aged 65+ to Qualify for SSI
If you’re 65 or older on your SSI application date, age alone should help you qualify for Connecticut disability benefits. Anyone younger must prove they’re either blind or have a condition that meets the SSI program’s definition of “disability.” They’ll schedule an independent DDS medical exam to confirm your condition stops you from working for at least 12 months. SSI claimants with obvious disabilities (i.e., you were born blind) are one possible exception to this exam requirement.
2. Eligible Connecticut Disability Applicants Need Very Low Income and Few Assets to Qualify for SSI
SSI claimants must also pass a financial screening to qualify for Connecticut disability. This means you cannot earn more than $1,260 while working, or have more than $783/month in passive income. “Passive income” means any money you get on a regular basis, such as alimony, child support payments or earned interest. In addition, you must have less than $2,000 in your bank account to qualify for SSI. The SSA will count every asset you own and can easily sell for cash towards that $2,000 limit. Asset examples they’ll look for may include: your jewelry, stocks, bonds, lottery tickets, 401(k) or IRA funds. Luckily, the SSI program always excludes certain resources from your “countable asset” list, including:
- Your home and the lot it’s on, if owned
- One vehicle for household transportation
- Wedding ring, furniture, clothing, appliances, bedding, towels, etc.
The SSI asset limit for couples is $3,000, and your combined earned income can’t total more than $1,260/month. For passive income, you must stay below $783/month (i.e., child support or alimony payments).
3. SSI Pays No More Than $783/Person, or $1,175/Couple Each Month
Like all federal programs, SSI beneficiaries will see their monthly Connecticut disability payments go up with every annual COLA increase. The federal government doesn’t approve one every single year, but if one’s approved, they’ll announce it in October. However, SSI approval doesn’t guarantee your Connecticut disability benefits for life. Instead, you’ll have to pass a disability update report every 3-7 years to keep your payments. This only applies for SSI beneficiaries getting Connecticut disability until they turn 65. Once you’re 65 or older, those update reports no longer apply to you. Instead, you only have to worry about meeting the SSI program’s financial eligibility requirements.
How Connecticut’s State-Administered General Assistance (SAGA) Benefits Work
You must first apply for SSDI and/or SSI benefits to qualify for Connecticut’s SAGA cash assistance program. SAGA’s designed to help you make ends meet while waiting for the SSA review your federal disability benefits application. To receive SAGA payments before your 65th birthday, you must be unable to work for:
- 2-6 months
- 6 months or longer and unable to take part in any education or training programs
All SAGA applicants must also pass a financial eligibility screening to qualify for temporary Connecticut disability benefits. To be financially eligible for SAGA, each applicant aged 22 and up must have:
- No more than $250 in assets (i.e., bank balance, jewelry, or vehicle’s value beyond the $4,500 standard deduction amount)
- Less than $2,250 in monthly income from all sources combined
If SAGA approves your application, cash benefit payment amounts are as follows:
- $219 per month for individuals with no income who pay rent/housing costs
- $55 per month for individuals with no income or housing costs (i.e., living in a shelter)
Once either the SSDI or SSI program approves your claim for Connecticut disability benefits, your SAGA payments stop coming. In fact, if either program approves you, the SSA will repay any SAGA benefits you got paid already. They’ll deduct the SAGA benefit amount you owe from your lump-sum back payment before depositing it directly into your account.
If Your SSI Claim’s Approved, You’ll Also Qualify for Connecticut’s State Supplement Program
Connecticut does pay additional benefits on top of your SSI monthly payment if you meet that state-run program’s rules. However, this extra money is not available to people that currently receive SAGA or SSDI payments. Here’s how much extra money you may get on from Connecticut’s state supplement program:
- $168/person, or $274/couple for SSI beneficiaries living on their own
- $39/person, or $78/couple for SSI beneficiaries living in Medicaid facilities
This money is in addition to your Connecticut disability benefits from the federal SSI program each month. That means individuals may get up to $842/month; couples, up to $1,285/month in Connecticut disability benefits. To apply for all state-administered SSP or SAGA cash payments, discounted health care and other benefits, download this form now.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Having a Connecticut disability lawyer file your benefits claim doubles your approval chances the first time you apply. It also makes you more likely to get your first six months after your application date. All Connecticut disability attorneys work on contingency, so you’ll pay nothing for legal assistance now. In fact, you can get a free, no-obligation consultation with a Social Security attorney today about your claim.
Using a Connecticut disability lawyer costs $0 unless your case wins monthly benefits. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!