Important: We updated this article in October 2023 to make sure all info below is correct. When you think of Maine, what comes to mind? If it’s lobster, there is a good reason for it! With about 4,500 active fishermen, the annual lobster haul is around 40 million pounds! That’s 90% of the nation’s lobster supply! But did you know Maine is also responsible for 99% of all the blueberries in the U.S.? And 90% of toothpicks. Also, Stephen King lives there. Which doesn’t have anything to do with toothpicks (or does it)? But if your current life circumstances are starting to resemble Misery or another horror novel, rest assured there is help. Residents have two options to apply for Maine disability benefits — we’ll explain how to get them below.
In a population of 1.3 million, about 217,000 Mainers report living with a disability. That’s about 16.3%, and more than the 12.6% national average. Plus, 32.4% of working-age Mainers with disabilities live at or below the federal poverty level (compared to 7.7% for non-disabled).
Still, with those numbers, only about 9.4% of Maine residents are receiving any disability benefits. In other words, many individuals who might qualify are missing out on financial help they could really use.
What are the options for Maine residents with disabilities who do need assistance? There are two federal programs Mainers can apply for through the Social Security Administration (SSA). They include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The former looks mostly at prior employment history, the latter at financial need. Both require applicants to meet the federal definition of disability. Here’s how to know where you might fit.
How Do I Qualify for Disability in Maine?
The two disability options available to Maine residents are federally funded. However, Maine Disability Determination Services (DDS) screens applicants in order to determine who is eligible to receive benefits. The good news is that individuals need only apply one time for consideration for both monthly benefit programs.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI)
SSDI is the first federally funded program for which Mainers can apply. These benefits are people with disabilities who:
- Meet the SSA’s definition of disability.
- Are unable to work for 12+ months specifically because of your medical condition.
- Have worked in qualifying jobs where they paid Social Security taxes.
What that means is that anyone filing an SSDI claim must demonstrate they’ve worked about one-fourth of their adult lives. And they must also show recent employment, meaning five of the last 10 years. This program is specifically designed for adults aged 18-66 with long-term medical conditions that make them unable to work.
Once the SSA awards you SSDI benefits, you also qualify for Medicare coverage after 24 months. It’s one of the few ways you can access this health insurance program at any age, before you turn 65.
Finally, your children and spouse can also receive SSDI payments once the SSA awards you benefits. Learn more about how eligible dependents can get SSDI.
Qualifying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
Individuals without enough work credits may apply for SSI. The second of the two available Maine disability programs, SSI bases support on financial need. It provides monthly cash benefits to children and adults with disabilities. Currently there are about 32,343 Mainers receiving SSI benefits — most of whom are aged, blind, or mobility/mentally impaired.
The eligibility requirements for SSI also include a financial screening for all applicants. SSI program rules state you must have very limited income and few or no resources you can easily sell for cash. In 2023, that means you must have less than $1,500 total monthly income and less than $2,000 in assets. For couples with disabilities, that limit goes up to $3,000 in combined assets.
Once the Social Security Administration awards you SSI, you’re automatically enrolled in Maine Medicaid. Medicaid provides health insurance starting the same month your SSI payments begin.
What Other Programs Are Available for the Disabled in Maine?
There are also other state supplemental program (SSP) benefits available in Maine. These include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Programs like these help augment the SSDI or SSI benefits some people with disabilities may receive. However, they may require more applications and paperwork on your part. A Maine disability lawyer can help you understand all programs available to you. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
How Much Is a Typical Maine Disability Monthly Payment?
In 2023, the maximum SSDI payment an individual on Maine disability can receive is $3,822. The average payment, however, is $1,537 per month. The amount is wholly determined by how much you earned from employment before becoming disabled.
Applicants who qualify for SSI can receive no more than $943 per month, or $1,415 as a couple. That is the 2024 federal benefit rate (FBR), which varies annually. The amount goes up or down depending on the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) each year.
This is another reason people applying for Maine disability should get a free attorney consultation.
How Long Will It Take to Get Maine Disability from the Social Security Administration?
The short answer here is, it’s going to take some time. Federal law requires a five-month waiting period before anyone can get payments after the SSA approves their disability claim. If you delay applying that long after you’ve stopped working, you can skip the waiting period. However, the longer you wait to file, the longer you’ll also wait for any funds.
Especially since getting from application to a disability determination can take months. Currently, the average case processing time in Maine is 468 days. That’s actually less than the national average of 459 days. And it can feel like forever when your financial situation is tough.
Furthermore, if you’re not successful on the first shot, you’ll wait even longer. On the positive side, 40% of Maine disability cases win after a hearing. However, the average wait for an appeals hearing before an Administrative Law Judge in Maine is 11 months. And there are only 10 of these judges working out of one office in Portland, ME.
Is There Any Way to Speed Things Up?
In dire situations, claimants may apply for the Compassionate Allowances program (CAL). This can help speed up Social Security disability claims for those with brain injuries, ALS, and rare or fatal disorders. But in all cases, getting through the disability application process is going to be just that — a process.
Pro Tip: Be sure to include recent medical evidence when you file. If you cannot afford copies of your full medical records, your legal team can pay your doctors for them without charging you. If you don’t have this level of documentation, then you’ll need to undergo a consultative exam.
How Do I Apply for Maine Disability?
If you’re still reading, chances are you think you’re eligible for Maine disability and should apply. So, how exactly do you do that? Well, you have a few options.
You may begin the process to apply online through the SSA’s portal. First, gather all documentation on their Adult Disability Checklist and then enter it online. The SSA will send anyone who seemingly qualifies to Disability Determination Services in Maine for further processing.
You may also contact the SSA by phone at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) to apply for benefits. You may call this number anytime during normal business hours Monday through Friday.
There are also eight SSA field offices in Maine where you can file your initial claim in person. For the best results, contact your local office location to make an appointment and skip the long wait.
The final option? Get a lawyer to help you apply for free.
How to Get Free Expert Help That Triples Your Chances for Benefit Approval
All disability attorneys work on contingency. So, there are no legal fees unless you win. But if you’re in need, you want the best outcome possible. And a disability lawyer can help most people achieve that. An experienced lawyer can help you gather medical records and represent you at an appeals hearing if your initial decision isn’t favorable. In fact, individuals with a Social Security attorney are three-times more likely to ultimately receive benefits.
And at this point, don’t you deserve all the help you can get? It only seems fair.
Want free expert claim help at home? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz now and see if you may qualify:
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.