Important: We updated this article in July 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. Often referred to as “America in Miniature,” Maryland is a little state with a lot of history. In fact, Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangled Banner,” America’s national anthem, while watching a battle in the Baltimore Harbor in 1814. And the Maryland State House is the oldest state capital still in legislative use. On a less historical note, most people associate Maryland with crabs. And Annapolis, home of the US Naval Academy, is also known as the “sailing capital of the world.” But what can Maryland residents do if they feel like they’re on a sinking ship owing to a disability? Well, there are two long-term Maryland disability programs for which residents can apply. Read on to see if you may qualify.
What Maryland Disability Programs Are Available to Residents?
Important: We updated this article in July 2023 to make sure all info below is both correct and current. Currently 1,055,353 adults in Maryland have a disability. That’s equal to 1 in 5 adults, or 20% of the state’s population. But only a small portion of those individuals are likely getting any of the Maryland disability benefits available to them. Some of this stems from not understanding the different Maryland disability programs, as well as confusion about qualifying and applying.
However, Maryland spends $17 billion a year, or 35% of its annual healthcare budget, on disability claims. If you experience health issues that prevent you from working, you owe it to yourself to see if you qualify.
With that in mind, there are two primary long-term disability programs available in Maryland.
They are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The former looks mostly at prior work history, the latter at financial need. These are federal programs administered through the Social Security Administration (SSA). As a result, both SSDI and SSI also require applicants to meet the federal definition of disability.
How Do I Qualify for SSDI or SSI Benefits?
Disability Determination Services (DDS) — which is part of the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) — examines an applicant’s eligibility. Though Maryland disability programs are federally funded, DDS determines if you meet the criteria to qualify for benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is the first program for which Maryland residents can apply. SSDI is specifically for adults aged 18-66 with long-term health issues that prevent them from working. These benefits are for disabled individuals who:
- Meet the SSA’s definition of disability and have severe functional limitations.
- Cannot work for 12 months or more owing to this condition.
- Have a qualifying work history where they paid Social Security taxes.
The SSA measures the work history requirement for SSDI eligibility in “work credits.” Typically, applicants must have worked about one-fourth of their adult lives and five of the last 10 years. That is the benchmark for accruing enough work credits from prior employment for “non-medical qualification.”
For those who don’t meet the non-medical requirements, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the other Maryland disability program available. It provides monthly cash benefits to children and adults who meet certain income and resource guidelines. Applicants must once again satisfy the definition of disability but there is no work history requirement.
The SSA will look to see if you qualify for SSDI and SSI simultaneously. That means you don’t have to fill out multiple applications for both programs. If you qualify for SSI disability in Maryland, the state will also automatically enroll you in Medicaid.
However, if you’d like to explore other supplemental benefits available to Maryland residents, you’ll have to apply for those separately. Programs such as SNAP (food stamps), transportation services, and energy/water assistance can also be a huge help to disabled individuals. The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) can assist with these claims.
How Much Are Maryland Disability Payments?
The maximum monthly payment a Maryland resident can get for a successful SSDI claim in 2023 is $3,627. On average, however, qualifying disabled workers get around $1,483 in benefits each month. Ultimately, the monthly payment amount reflects how much a person made while working prior to filing for disability.
Currently there are 117,202 Maryland residents receiving SSI monthly payments, most of whom are blind or disabled. The max benefit for SSI in 2023 is $914 per month, which is the federal benefit rate (FBR). An eligible couple can receive up to $1,371 monthly. Keep in mind these numbers are also the upper limit an individual can make and still receive benefits. And “countable income” is not just money from working. It also includes things like alimony, workers’ comp, and veterans’ benefits.
Calculating your personal countable income from all the various sources the government includes is a bit complicated. That is one of many reasons hiring a lawyer when applying for Maryland disability is such a smart move.
How Long Does It Take to Get Maryland Disability Benefits?
Getting disability benefits is a lengthy process. So, you should prepare yourself for the fact that qualifying is going to take a while. In Maryland, the current average case processing time is 424 days. That means you could be waiting over a year to even get your initial determination rolling. And if your first try fails, the wait time for a hearing with a judge is 12.5 months. Additionally, the SSA requires a five month wait before issuing any payments.
Basically, in some cases that means that an individual could be waiting more than two years to see any benefits. This is, unfortunately, longer than the national average.
And it is further reason to have an attorney help with your Maryland disability case. Especially since studies show that people with representation in disability hearings are three-times more likely to win their case.
The good news is that the wait may be worth it, since the state approves 45% of Maryland disability claims. So, while it may take longer than the national average to get benefits, the approval rate is ultimately higher.
In especially dire cases, the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) classification may allow you to receive a faster review. This is for people with severe disabilities — like certain brain disorders or cancers. A Social Security disability attorney can advise if you might qualify for this special status.
How Do I Apply for Disability in Maryland?
Applicants can apply for Maryland disability one of three ways:
- Online through the portal at SSA.gov.
- By calling the SSA’s service line toll free at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) anytime during regular business hours.
- By visiting a local Social Security office. However, this can take a while, so it’s best to call and make an appointment if you can.
There are currently two locations in Maryland hearing disability cases, and these are both located in the Baltimore area.
As we said earlier, the DDS will also play a part in all Maryland disability claims. Their contact info is:
211 Schilling Circle
Hunt Valley, MD 21031
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
The final option for filing your application is hiring a lawyer to submit your claim for you. If your first instinct is that you can’t afford that, think again.
Considering how long the process takes in Maryland, it can literally pay to retain counsel. This is because you’re more likely to see benefits in your pocket with an expert helping navigate the system.
And to return to our earlier metaphor, every sinking ship needs a good captain to right the boat.
Want free expert claim help at home? Click the button below now to start your free online benefits quiz 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.