Important: we updated this article in January 2023 with the most current and correct info. When most people think of Georgia, peaches are probably the first thing that comes to mind. But really, that’s nuts! Why? Well, though the state does grow some delicious fruit, it is in fact peanuts that are its top product. In fact, Georgia is number one in the entire nation for peanuts — producing more than three-and-a-half billion pounds per year. That’s a lot of PB&J! Georgia is also home to former US President Jimmy Carter (who was a peanut farmer before politics, FYI). And it’s the birthplace of Coca Cola, some rappers and Real Housewives, and the Civil Rights Movement (thanks MLK Jr.). Speaking of rights, do you know yours when it comes to disability? If you’re a resident who needs Georgia disability benefits, there are programs out there to support you.
And trust us, the payments are more than peanuts, but you must know how and where to apply.
What Are the Options for Georgia Disability?
Georgia residents who meet the federal definition of disability have options for help on both the federal and state levels. To get the most benefits, a person should start with the federal programs, of which there are two available.
Through the Social Security Administration (SSA), Georgians can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The first looks mostly at prior work history, the second at financial need.
Currently about 28%, or around one in four adults in Georgia have a disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most are in the mobility or cognition-related disability category. Following that are people who struggle with independent living, hearing, vision, and self-care. Basically 2,150,179 people in Georgia have a disability but only a small percentage of that number are getting any assistance.
How do you increase your chances? Well, retaining a Georgia disability attorney is one way, but we’ll get to that. The best place to start, however, is by applying.
What is SSDI and How Can a Person Qualify?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for adults aged 18-65 with long-term health issues that prevent them from working. This branch of Georgia disability supports disabled individuals who have a qualifying previous work history. Meaning applicants can show they’ve worked for about one-fourth of their adult lives, including five of the last 10 years. And as part of that employment, they must have paid Social Security taxes (which is how this program is funded).
Basically, to receive SSDI Georgia disability benefits, applicants must:
- Have a long-lasting medical condition that renders them incapable of working for 12 months or more.
- Show previous work in jobs that deducted Social Security taxes.
- Meet the SSA’s definition of disability.
The maximum SSDI monthly payment a person can get in 2023 is $3,627. On average, however, qualifying disabled workers get around $1,483/month. Ultimately, the monthly payment amount received reflects how much a person made while working.
For people without enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, SSI is another possible program available for very low-income individuals.
What is SSI and How Can a Person Qualify?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the other federally funded Georgia disability program. It provides monthly cash benefits to very low-income/low-resource adults and children. Currently there are 258,304 Georgia residents receiving SSI benefits, most of whom are blind or disabled. There is no work history necessary, but the financial requirements for qualification are strict.
Total countable income calculated through a rather complicated formula determines SSI eligibility. Applicants cannot make more than the federal benefit rate (FBR) monthly, and for 2022 that is $914 solo/$1,371 per couple. Also keep in mind, “countable” includes income from employment but also monies received for alimony, workers’ comp, and veterans’ benefits.
To qualify for SSI Georgia disability benefits, at minimum an individual must:
- Have a disability that lasts for a year or more that prevents them from working.
- Show countable monthly income less than the FBR.
- Hold less than $2,000 per individual/$3,000 per couple in assets.
If you qualify for SSI, the most your check will be per month is the maximum FBR.
In Georgia, you can apply for both SSDI and SSI simultaneously with one application. While it’s technically possible to qualify for both programs, it’s more typical to receive one or the other.
What Other Georgia Disability Programs are Available?
In addition to the two main federally funded Georgia disability options, there are several state-funded assistance programs. Known as a State Supplemental Payment (SSP), qualifying individuals can get help with food, emergency cash, and more.
In Georgia these SSP opportunities require a separate application from any disability paperwork already submitted. All applications for these additional programs must go through the Georgia Gateway, which is the statewide Social Services branch.
As far as medical benefits, however, individuals who qualify for Georgia disability are automatically Medicaid eligible.
How Long Does It Take to Get Georgia Disability Payments?
Federal law requires a five-month waiting period after a person becomes disabled before the SSA will issue SSDI payments. This is true no matter what state you live in or when you apply. But don’t wait to submit paperwork because disability cases take a long time to resolve.
In fact, in Georgia, you’ll wait more than five months just for your claim to be processed.
Currently the average case-processing time in Georgia is 451 days. That’s right — longer than a year! And in downtown Atlanta, it can take 539 days! In other words, file your paperwork fast because the sooner you submit, the sooner you can receive benefits.
If you aren’t successful on your first attempt, you may wait another 12 months for a hearing. There are six Offices of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Georgia. However, there are many cases to be heard, thus the long wait times and delays.
The Compassionate Allowances program (CAL) is for extremely dire cases. This designation is only for emergencies, however. It’s reserved for cases where it’s indisputable the person meets the definition of disability and time is of the essence. This applies to situations like severe brain injury or a terminal diagnosis.
Otherwise, prepare to wait to see any funds. Even if successful with your Georgia disability claim, it could be more than a year before you see a check.
One other expediting tip, however, would be to get a Social Security attorney to help. Studies show that people who retain counsel on disability claims are three-times more likely to have a positive outcome. You don’t want to have your case thrown out or delayed owing to incomplete paperwork or technicalities. A lawyer can keep things moving in the right direction.
What Are the Best Ways to Apply for Georgia Disability?
All Georgia disability applications are initially filed with the SSA since disability benefits are ultimately decided according to federal guidelines. The SSA will then forward potentially qualifying applications to Georgia’s Disability Adjudication Services (DAS) for further processing and determination.
To get your application started, you have three choices. You may:
- Apply online through the portal at SSA.gov.
- Call the SSA’s toll-free service line. To apply call 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) anytime during regular business hours Monday through Friday.
- Visit a local Social Security office. However, this requires an appointment and may be more difficult owing to limited on-site staff and COVID-19 restrictions.
Or, as previously mentioned, you may wish to get a Georgia disability attorney and have them file for you. All disability attorneys in our network work on contingency. So, until you settle your claim, you pay nothing. And if you do win, you only pay a small, one-time fee deducted from your settlement.
Knowing how long it can take from filing to resolution, it’s smart to have someone help you navigate the system. Especially since hiring a disability lawyer markedly increases your chances of a successful outcome on the first try.
Basically, you have nothing to lose, and only time and money to gain.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter/X @KimberlyNeumann.