Connecticut Disability Benefits: What You Must Know

Disability Benefits

Important: We updated this article in May 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. A little more than 3.6 million people currently live in Connecticut. Of those, 21% of the state’s population is currently 50-64 years old (769,447 people). Once you turn 50, it gets much easier qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits! Yet in December 2022, just 2% received monthly Connecticut disability benefits from the federal SSDI program. Another 1.6% qualified for the 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 for disabled applicants. 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 those who qualify. 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 the two state programs that provide Connecticut disability benefits work.

Most people should file claims for Connecticut disability benefits in the following order:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  3. Connecticut State-Administered General Assistance (SAGA)
  4. 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 67 who become too disabled to keep working tap into their Social Security money. Below, we answer the most asked questions about SSDI.

1. Who’s Eligible to Apply for SSDI?

Don’t want to waste time filing a SSDI claim if you won’t qualify? 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 for 5 in the last 10 years while paying FICA taxes? SSDI is a federal disability insurance program, and your FICA taxes pay your policy premiums. Once you stop working for five years (60 months) in a row, that coverage automatically ends. Also, some employers don’t normally take out FICA payroll taxes. Union jobs (teachers, firemen), federal employees, and service industry workers (Realtors, bartenders) are often exempt.
  • Does your doctor say your health won’t improve for at least one year — and that it makes you unable to work? Both these things must be true for your condition to fit the SSDI program’s definition of “disability.” So if you just need to miss three months of work for total hip replacement surgery, you 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 during the last year? 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 unable to work at an independent medical exam.
  • Are you currently at least 18, but younger than 67? SSDI specifically provides benefits to Americans not yet drawing Social Security benefits. Once you turn 67, SSDI automatically converts into regular Social Security. If you’re drawing early retirement you cannot get SSDI, and if you’re over 67, then you’re too old to qualify.

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 usually 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 claims on appeal. That’s because most people wrongly believe that they don’t need a disability lawyer to get benefits. Last year, the SSDI program awarded benefits to just 19% of initial applicants. Having a lawyer file your SSDI application makes you nearly 3x more likely to get benefits!

Think you can’t afford a lawyer? All SSD attorneys work on contingency. That means you’ll pay $0 if the SSA doesn’t award you cash payments. Right now, SSDI claims for Connecticut disability benefits take 441 days to process, on average. If you apply on your own without expert help, you could wait a year or longer for your first check. If denied, you have 60 days to appeal that decision.

The first appeal step is called reconsideration, which adds another 180 days to your average wait time. However, just 2% of people win SSDI benefits at this stage. But if you’re denied, you have another 60 days to appeal again. Scheduling a court date with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is the next stage of your appeal. But you’ll need to wait another 11.5 months, on average, for your court date. If the Connecticut disability judge awards you benefits, you’ll wait at least 15-18 months for your first SSDI check!

3. How Much Does the SSDI Program Pay Approved Connecticut Disability Claimants Each Month?

The SSDI program’s avarage benefit for 2024 is $1,537. 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 your average monthly past paychecks in Connecticut disability benefits. (This is the exact same formula the SSA uses to calculate retirement benefits.) Every October, the SSA announces whether or not the federal government approved a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase for the next 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 still cannot 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 turn 67. Once that birthday passes, your Connecticut disability automatically converts into Social Security retirement. The dollar amount you get each month won’t change, and you don’t need to fill out any forms. But if the SSA decides you’re able to work before then, your Connecticut disability checks stop immediately.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Who’s Covered, Eligibility Rules & Average Payment Amounts

The federal SSI program pays benefits to low income applicants who are blind, disabled, or at least 65 years old. Many people can’t qualify for SSDI because they haven’t worked recently, long enough, or in the right jobs. You’ll also need very little income and almost no assets to meet the SSI eligibility requirements. Learn more about the SSI program’s rules before you apply and average pay 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) may be able to skip this exam.

2. Eligible Connecticut Disability Applicants Need Very Low Income and Few Assets to Qualify for SSI

SSI claimants must also pass a financial test to qualify for Connecticut disability. This means you cannot have more than $1,550 in monthly household income. “Passive income” means any money you get on a regular basis, such as alimony, child support payments, or SNAP benefits. 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. Examples they’ll look for may include: your jewelry, stocks, bonds, lottery tickets, 401(k) or IRA funds. Luckily, the SSI program always ignores certain resources you might own, including:

  • Your home and the lot it’s on, if you own both
  • One vehicle for daily transportation
  • Wedding ring, furniture, clothing, appliances, bedding, towels, etc.

The SSI asset limit for couples is $3,000, and your total home income can’t be more than $1,550 per month.

3. SSI Pays No More Than $943 per Person, or $1,415 per Couple Monthly

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 when they do, 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 continuing disability review (CDR) 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 CDRs no longer apply to you. Instead, you only have to worry about meeting the SSI program’s income and asset limits.

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 an income test to qualify for temporary Connecticut disability benefits. To qualify for SAGA, each person aged 22 and up must have:

  • No more than $250 in assets per person, or $1,000 for a family of 4 or more people (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:

  • $233 per month for individuals with no income who pay rent/housing costs
  • $59 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 back benefits 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 per person, or $274 per couple for SSI beneficiaries living on their own
  • $39 per person, or $78 per couple for people on SSI 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 $1,082 per month; couples, up to $1,645 per month in Connecticut disability. To apply for Connecticut SSP or SAGA cash payments, health care and other benefits, start your application online now.

Having a lawyer file your benefits claim nearly triples your chances for success. It also makes you more likely to get your first payment within six months. All Connecticut disability attorneys work on contingency. This means you’ll pay nothing for expert claim help now. In fact, you can get a free phone call with a local Social Security attorney to discuss your claim.

Using a Connecticut disability lawyer costs $0 unless your case wins. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay one small fee.

Want free expert claim help without leaving your home? Click the button below now to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:

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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, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, 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.