Your Complete Guide to Illinois Disability Benefits

Disability Benefits

Important: We updated this article in June 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. About 2.5 million people in Illinois — or 1 in 5 residents — are currently aged 50-64. Those are prime years for collecting Social Security Disability Insurance benefits! However, just 2% collected Illinois disability through the federal SSDI program in 2022. Another 1.7% received Illinois disability payments from the federal Supplemental Security Income program. If you can’t work for at least 12 months due to health problems, you might also qualify for Illinois disability. We’ll explain how to apply, eligibility rules, and pay amounts for both programs below.

Illinois Disability Benefits: You Have Two Options

Both programs I mentioned above pay monthly Illinois disability benefits to qualified applicants. They use same the medical screening questions to determine who’s too disabled to work for at least one year. In addition, the Social Security Administration (SSA) manages both disability assistance programs. However, that’s where the similarities between SSDI and SSI end. You can apply for Illinois disability benefits paid through these two programs:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Luckily, you only have to fill out the claim paperwork once to apply for benefits from both programs. Just check the box asking the SSA to screen you for both SSI and SSDI benefits!

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Indiana Disability

SSDI-Based Illinois Disability Benefits: How to Apply, Qualify & Payment Amounts

The first program, SSDI, is designed to provide long-term disability insurance for working-age Americans. It first went into effect back in January 1956. Every person who works full-time and pays Social Security taxes with every paycheck has this coverage. (Social Security taxes are also commonly known as FICA taxes.) Because SSDI comes from an insurance policy, your coverage automatically lapses once you stop working for 60 months. That means anyone who paid FICA taxes while working 5 in the last 10 years full-time may qualify for SSDI. Keep reading to learn what Illinois disability benefits through the SSDI program might mean for you.

1. Who Can File an SSDI Claim for Illinois Disability Benefits?

Not sure if you meet the SSDI program’s eligibility rules? Here’s a quick and easy way to find out. If you answer “yes” to all four questions, you already meet the requirements:

  • Did you work full-time jobs for 5 in the last 10 years and pay into Social Security? This is the first and most important step to qualify for SSDI. Otherwise, the SSA will automatically deny your claim.
  • Is your mental or physical condition terminal, or expected to last at least one year? SSDI program rules say your health issue must force you to stop working at least 12 months. The SSA auto-rejects your claim if you get better in less than one year.
  • Have you seen a doctor within the last year? If yes, then great! You’re one step closer to approval. Otherwise, the SSA needs to confirm your diagnosis prevents you from working. They’ll schedule a Disability Determination Services (DDS) exam after apply for SSDI. If you can’t afford to see a doctor, talk to a lawyer before you apply. An Illinois disability lawyer can pay for treatment and medical evidence needed to support your claim.
  • Are you at least 18, but younger than 67 and not getting any Social Security yet? The SSDI program specifically provides benefits for working-age Americans. Once you turn 67, your SSDI benefits convert into regular Social Security. Read this to learn why you can’t draw Social Security retirement and disability at the same time.

If you said “no” at least once to any question above, apply for benefits through the SSI program instead.

2. How Long Will I Wait for My First Payment Once My SSDI Claim’s Approved?

Six months from your SSDI application date is the soonest you’ll get your first Illinois disability check. Actual wait times vary, but each SSDI application takes about 3-5 months to process. Federal law enforces a five-month waiting period before any applicant can receive monthly SSDI benefits. If you’re out of work for five or more months before you apply, you can skip that wait time. Just don’t wait too long to file your SSDI claim! Want the shortest wait time and the most benefits you can possibly get? Talk to a disability lawyer for free before you file. Legally, an Illinois disability attorney can’t charge you anything unless the SSA grants you benefits. Right now, SSDI claims take 430 days to process, on average.

If you apply on your own without a lawyer, the SSA will likely reject your claim. If denied, you have four chances to appeal. You must do this within 60 days after your denial letter arrives in the mail. Reconsideration is the first appeal step and it takes another 100 days, on average. The approval rate at reconsideration is currently 2%. Denied again? Appeal a second time to plead your case to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). How long that might take depends entirely on where you live. Peoria residents wait just 10 months, on average, for a court date. In Chicago, you’ll wait about 17 months for your hearing. If the Illinois disability judge approves you, you’ll wait about 2 years for your first SSDI check!

3. How Much Money Does the SSDI Program Pay Each Month?

The highest monthly Illinois disability payment you can get from SSDI is $3,627. Only people earning a six-figure salary for several years can qualify for that much SSDI money. Nationwide, the average SSDI payment to disabled workers is currently $1,483 per month. Your payment amount should equal about 40% of your highest average monthly paycheck earned while working. The only way to get more is through an annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase.

4. Are SSDI-Based Disability Payments Permanent?

You cannot get permanent Illinois disability benefits after your SSDI claim’s approved. Instead, the SSA needs to confirm you’re still unable to work once every 3, 5, or 7 years. You must pass each SSDI update report in order to receive more benefits. However, these disability update checks automatically stop when you reach your FRA. This is when the SSA automatically converts your Illinois disability into regular Social Security benefits. Your monthly pay amount won’t change, and you don’t need to complete more paperwork to make this happen. But if the SSA believes you’re able to work at any time before that, your SSDI payments will stop.

SSI-Based Illinois Disability Benefits: How to Apply, Qualify & Payment Amounts

There’s a second federal program that pays Illinois disability benefits to people who cannot meet all SSDI requirements. Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is designed to help poor people who are blind, disabled, or age 65 and up. You’ll need very low income and few assets to qualify for Illinois disability payments from the SSI program. Learn the SSI eligibility rules and Illinois disability pay amounts below.

1. Both SSI and SSDI Programs Define “Disability” the Same Way

Unless you wait until your 65th birthday to apply, you must be blind or disabled to qualify for SSI. You’ll need convincing proof your SSI claim qualifies for Illinois disability benefits. In most cases, a Social Security doctor must examine you to confirm you meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled.” But if you’re already 65 or older, your age alone means you’ll pass this screening question. If that applies to you, you don’t need to gather any medical records first. Your SSI application for Illinois disability benefits should be enough.

2. You Need Very Low Income and Almost No Assets In Order to Get SSI

The SSI program screens every Illinois disability applicant for financial purposes. First, your monthly income must be less than $1,470 to qualify for SSI. This includes any money you get on a monthly basis, not just your work wages. The SSA looks for things like alimony, child support, savings account interest, etc. Next, they’ll look at how much you currently have in your bank account. If your balance is more than $2,000, the SSI program won’t award you benefits. Then, the SSA looks for other countable assets that may push you over that $2,000 limit. Anything you can sell easily for cash goes into that category, such as jewelry, stocks, bonds, etc. Things the SSA won’t count towards your total asset limit include:

  • Your house and the land it’s on, if you own it
  • One vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, boat) for household transportation
  • Your wedding ring, furniture, clothing or daily living items (appliances, bedding, towels)

The SSI program has different income and asset limits for married couples who apply. Eligible couples need less than $3,000 in assets and $1,470 in monthly income to qualify for SSI-based Illinois disability benefits.

3. SSI Pays Up To $914 Per Person, or $1,371 Per Couple in Illinois Disability Benefits

Luckily, anyone getting Illinois disability through the SSI program is eligible for annual COLA increases in certain years. You must also prove you’re too disabled to work every few years to keep getting SSI. Once you turn 65, the SSI program no longer needs to confirm you’re blind or disabled to qualify. As long as you still meet the income limits, you can keep your SSI for life.

What About Temporary or Short-Term Illinois Disability Benefits?

Unfortunately, no government program pays short-term or temporary disability benefits in Illinois. (However, you may have coverage as part of your job benefits package or purchase a private plan before becoming disabled.) But that’s okay! Government programs aren’t the only way injured or sick people can get enough money to live on. See if either of these applies to you:

  1. Workman’s comp. State law requires workers’ compensation coverage for every Illinois employer. If you get hurt or sick while at work, then you may qualify for workman’s comp benefits. Get a free 2-minute evaluation online now to see if you’re potentially eligible.
  2. Car accident settlements. Injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault? Don’t accept an insurance settlement for half the money you’re owed! A personal injury claim is the only way to get 100% of the money you deserve. Car insurance only pays 54% of your costs, on average, according to NHTSA data. Get a free consultation before deciding which option is right for you.

Want to nearly triple your chances for getting benefits? Have a lawyer file your claim! A Social Security attorney charges nothing up front for expert claim help. Federal law says the SSA must approve any legal fees your attorney wants to charge before you pay. That’s because all Illinois SSD lawyers work on contingency. For this reason, you cannot owe any fees until after the SSA awards you benefits. So, you won’t pay a dime unless your case wins. And if you do win, you’ll only pay one small fee.

Want free expert claim help right away? Click the button below now to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

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.