Iowa’s population in 2019 swelled to 3.17 million people. Nearly 1 in 5 residents (at least 612,000 people) are now between 50 and 64 years old. That’s when grid rules kick in that make it easier to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits! Yet in December 2020, just 2.4% received monthly Iowa disability benefits from the federal SSDI program. Another 1.5% received the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program’s Iowa disability benefits each month. If you become too disabled to work before you’re old enough to retire, you may also qualify for Iowa disability. But with two federal and one state-run disability program offering benefits, where should you begin? We’ll explain who gets these monthly payments, how to apply and dollar amounts.
Which Three Programs Provide Iowa Disability Benefits?
Right now, three different government programs pay Iowa disability payments to eligible applicants. You can qualify for checks from two programs at once, but not three. So, which should you apply for first — and how much money do most people qualify for each month? Learn how to file your claims in order to maximize your Iowa disability benefits below.
Most Iowa disability claimants should apply to these programs in the following order:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Iowa State Supplementary Assistance (SSA)
The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages both programs in the #1 and #2 spots above. Luckily, you can check one box on the same claim form to apply for both programs at once. (You only need to worry about program #3 after your SSI claim’s approved for Iowa disability benefits.)
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): Program Rules, How to Apply & Monthly Benefit Amounts
The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages this federal disability benefits program. SSDI is actually an insurance policy that covers all full-time employees that pay Social Security taxes with every paycheck. (Some employers call them FICA taxes, but they’re technically the same thing.) Those taxes go towards paying your insurance policy premiums every month. Below, we’ll answer frequently asked questions on how the SSDI program works.
1. Who Should Apply for SSDI?
If you answer each question below with “yes,” file your SSDI claim for Iowa disability benefits today:
- Did you work 5 or more in the last 10 years in jobs where you paid Social Security taxes? The SSDI program only pays Iowa disability to applicants with active insurance policies. If you stop working, your policy coverage automatically lapses in the 61st month you’re unemployed. About 70% of working-age Americans have this coverage, but some people have jobs that don’t pay into Social Security. Examples include federal workers, service-industry employees and independent contractors.
- Does your doctor expect your condition to last for at least 12 months or result in your death? The SSA automatically denies claims for disabling conditions that improve in less than one year. Terminal illnesses usually automatically qualify as a disability under the SSDI program’s eligibility rules.
- Are you currently 18-64 years old and unable to work specifically due to health problems? Congress originally created the SSDI program to help people younger than full retirement age tap into their Social Security. But once you reach your FRA, any SSDI payments convert into regular Social Security checks automatically.
Not sure if you may qualify? The SSI program’s Iowa disability benefits may still be available to you.
2. How Long Until My First SSDI Check Arrives?
Six months from your SSDI claim’s filing date is the soonest you can get your first Iowa disability payment. The agency takes 3-5 months to review each SSDI application. Plus, federal law requires a five-month waiting period before they can pay benefits for approved claims. Unfortunately, 2 in 5 first-time SSDI applicants get turned down for simple paperwork mistakes. Things like stapling two pages together or writing in the margins can get eligible applicants turned down! Having an Iowa disability lawyer file your claim makes you nearly 3x more likely to get benefits.
All these attorneys work on contingency, so you’ll pay nothing for legal assistance now. In fact, unless your SSDI claim’s approved, you’ll owe that Iowa disability lawyer $0. In 2021, SSDI claims took 377 days to process, on average. That’s more than a year! If you decide to file without a lawyer, that’s about how long you’ll wait for your first payment. Of course, it could be much longer than that. If you’re denied the first time you apply, you can still appeal.
Just 2% of Iowa disability applicants got approved in 2020 during the first appeal step, which is called reconsideration. That adds another 100 days to your wait time for your first SSDI payment. If you’re turned down at that stage, you an appeal again. To do this, you must request an appeals hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Last year, just 9% of applicants got approved for benefits by an Iowa disability judge. In 2021, the average wait time for an ALJ court date was 10 months. So if you’re approved on appeal, you’ll wait at least 18 months for your first Iowa disability check!
3. How Much SSDI Money Can I Get Each Month?
The highest monthly payment the SSDI program pays anyone approved in 2022 is $3,345. However, $1,358 is the average payment for disabled workers across the U.S. To figure out your payment, the agency averages your highest wages earned over a 35-year work history. Much like regular Social Security, that amount should equal 40% of your average monthly paycheck. The only way to raise your Iowa disability benefits from SSDI is through an annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase.
4. Does the SSDI Program Pay Iowa Disability Benefits for Life?
Unfortunately, no. Once approved, they must review your disability status every 3-7 years to confirm you still cannot work. These are called disability update reports, and you must pass each one to receive your next Iowa disability check. If you can’t pass, they’ll terminate your Iowa disability payments immediately. Luckily, these disability check-ins stop once you turn 65 years old. That birthday tells the SSA you’ve reached your full retirement age (FRA). Once your FRA passes, the SSDI program’s Iowa disability benefits automatically convert into regular Social Security retirement. Your payment amount each month stays the same, and you don’t need to fill out any forms.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Program Rules, How to Apply & Monthly Benefit Amounts
If you’re medically disabled but don’t meet the SSDI program’s other eligibility requirements, then you likely qualify for SSI. If you’re poor and blind, disabled or at least 65 years old, the SSI program can help you make ends meet. However, you must first pass the SSI program’s financial screening for Iowa disability applicants. Learn about the program’s income and asset limits before you apply, average payment amounts and more below.
1. Eligible SSI Applicants Must Be Blind, Disabled or Aged 65 & Up to Qualify
The SSI program uses the same medical eligibility requirements as the SSDI program, but age alone may help you qualify. If you’re younger than 65, you must prove you’re blind or fit the SSI program’s definition of “disabled.” Applicants aged 65 and older are medically eligible based on age alone. If that applies to your case, you only need to worry about passing the SSI program’s financial eligibility screening.
2. SSI Claimants Must Also Have Very Low Income and Almost No Resources
The SSI program’s financial screening looks at two things: Your monthly income and countable assets. “Income” means money you get every month from any source, including child support, alimony, earned interest or inheritance. The program also looks for things it can count as income, such as living with a relative rent-free. If you have a bank account, you can’t have more than $2,000 in it when you apply. Any resource you own worth more than $2,000 may disqualify you from getting SSI. Asset examples they’ll count towards that limit include jewelry, stocks, bonds, 401(k) or IRA funds. Basically, anything you can easily sell for cash makes it harder to get Iowa disability from the SSI program. However, some things never count towards your SSI asset limit, including:
- The home you live in and the land it’s on, as long as you own it
- One vehicle for daily household transportation
- Your wedding ring, furniture, clothing, appliances, bedding, towels and other essential living items
Couples filing SSI claims have a different combined income and asset limit they must meet. Combined assets can’t be worth more than $3,000, and your monthly income must be less than $1,350 total.
3. SSI Pays No More Than $841/Person, or $1,261/Couple In Monthly Iowa Disability Benefits
Much like the SSDI program, SSI beneficiaries are also eligible for an annual COLA increase in certain years. So, if your SSI claim’s approved, your monthly Iowa disability payment amount isn’t set in stone. Instead, it’ll go up a certain percentage in years where the federal government approves a COLA raise. However, you’ll also need to pass a disability update review once every 3-7 years to keep your benefits. When this happens, the SSI program just needs to confirm that your symptoms are the same or got worse. If your condition improves enough to start working, then you no longer medically qualify for Iowa disability payments. Once you turn 65 years old, those disability update reports no longer apply to you.
Once Your SSI Claim’s Approved, You May Apply for Iowa State Supplementary Assistance (SSA) Benefits
Only people with approved SSI claims can qualify for additional cash payments from Iowa’s state-run SSA program. But once you’re approved for SSI, you can get a little more money each month in Iowa’s state-based SSA payments! (The Social Security Administration doesn’t handle those benefits, so you must apply through Iowa’s Department of Human Services website. Here are Iowa’s SSA payment amounts, depending on your current disability status and living situation:
- $112 in personal needs allowance money
- $435 is the maximum dependent-person payment
- $1,276 is the maximum monthly payment for couples
Do Any Programs Pay Temporary or Short-Term Iowa Disability Benefits?
You’d need to buy your own private insurance policy before becoming disabled (or have coverage through an employer benefits package). Right now, no federal or state government programs pay short-term or temporary Iowa disability benefits.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Iowa disability benefits are much harder to qualify for if you apply before your 50th birthday. A Social Security attorney filing your claim nearly triples your chances for getting benefits. All Iowa disability lawyers work on contingency. That means you’ll pay nothing for legal assistance with your claim now.
No Iowa disability lawyer will accept you as a client unless they believe you’re eligible for monthly benefits. If your Iowa disability application’s denied through all four steps in the claims process, you owe the lawyer $0. And if your case does win, 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!
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.