Important: We updated this article in August 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. Anyone unable to work due to health problems in this state may apply for Massachusetts disability benefits. But which program should you file an application with first? And how many ways are there to get financial help in Massachusetts? We’ll explain everything you need to know below.
Tips to Maximize Your Massachusetts Disability Payments
There are actually three different Massachusetts disability programs that provide monthly payments. However, you cannot get money from all three at the same time. So, read each section below to figure out which one best fits what you need before you apply. Most people should file their Massachusetts disability applications in the following order:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Massachusetts State Supplement Program (SSP)
We’ll explain why below.
How To Get Massachusetts Disability Benefits Through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Program
The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs a federal benefits program for those who cannot work for health reasons. It’s called SSDI, which stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. However, SSDI only covers long-term or permanent health issues, not temporary ones. Below, we’ll answer questions people most often ask about SSDI.
1. Who Should Apply for SSDI?
Here’s how to tell if you might qualify for SSDI before you apply:
- Have you paid Social Security payroll taxes while working 5 in the last 10 years? This is the first step towards getting Massachusetts disability payments funded through the SSDI program. Some people who normally don’t pay into Social Security include service workers (bar staff, waiters); union members (teachers, fire fighters) and federal employees. But why does the SSA ask about the last five years in your work history? It’s because SSDI is a federal disability insurance program. Once you stop paying into Social Security for 60 months in a row, then your coverage automatically lapses.
- Does a doctor expect your condition to last for at least 12 months or result in your death? The SSA automatically denies claims from people who can working again in less than a year. If you have a temporary injury or illness, then SSDI won’t award you benefits.
- Are you at least 18, but younger than 67 and not currently drawing any Social Security benefits? Once you turn 67, then SSDI payments automatically convert into regular Social Security.
If you answered “yes” to all three questions, apply for Massachusetts disability benefits through the SSDI program.
2. How Long Does It Usually Take to Get That First SSDI Payment?
Six months after you apply for SSDI is the soonest you can get your first Massachusetts disability check. The SSA says it takes them 3-5 months to review each SSDI application. Plus, federal law requires a five-month waiting period before the agency can pay benefits to anyone. Last year, SSDI claims in Massachusetts took 437 days to process, on average. That’s almost 15 months!
Unfortunately, many people make mistakes that get them turned down the first time they apply for benefits. The SSA can deny your claim just because you staple two pages together or write in the margins! If this happens, you’ll wait another 14 months to plead your case before an appeals judge. That’s why getting a lawyer to help you apply for free the first time is such a smart idea.
3. How Much Does SSDI Pay Each Month In Massachusetts Disability Benefits?
The highest monthly SSDI payment amount anyone can qualify for in 2023 is $3,627. However, most people awarded benefits in July 2023 got $1,681 each month, on average. The SSA uses your highest wages earned over a 35-year work history to find your monthly SSDI amount. Much like regular Social Security, that equals about 40% of your monthly work wages. If there’s a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase, though, your monthly payments can go up.
4. Once Approved, Are Monthly SSDI Payments Permanent?
Unfortunately, no. The SSA checks up on your disability status every 3-7 years until you turn 67. After that, SSDI automatically turns into retirement benefits. But the amount you receive each month won’t change, and you don’t need to do any paperwork. This payment switch happens automatically, and you won’t miss a single bank deposit.
Bonus Tip: Pay your doctor for complete copies of your medical records to file along with your SSDI application. You need good, recent proof your health forced you to stop working for 12 months to qualify for SSDI!
How to Get Massachusetts Disability Benefits Through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program
Already turned 65, haven’t worked recently or long enough in jobs where you paid Social Security taxes? Then you might qualify for Massachusetts disability benefits through the SSI program. It’s a federal aid program that helps who are blind, disabled, or at least 65 years old and have very little income. But unlike SSDI, the SSI program looks at your financial status first, then your health or age. Read on to learn how the SSA screens SSI claims based on health, income and assets, plus monthly pay amounts.
1. Medical Exams for SSDI and SSI Are Identical
You must be blind or meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled” to qualify for SSI or SSDI. Your health issues must last at least one year for you to qualify for SSI if you’re younger than 65.
2. You Need Very Little Income and Must Own Almost Nothing To Get SSI
You cannot currently qualify for SSI if the total income from everyone in your home is higher than $1,470 every month. That includes any money you get from other sources, like earned interest, alimony, or child support. You must also own less than $2,000 in assets that you can easily sell for cash. Examples they’ll count towards your total asset limit include jewelry, stocks, bonds, your bank account, 401(k), or IRA funds.
However, the SSA leaves out certain things when counting up those assets, such as:
- Your home and the land it’s on, if you own it
- One vehicle used for daily travel needs
- Your wedding ring, furniture, clothing, and other critical items (bedding, towels, etc.)
Anything else you can sell for cash is an asset that counts toward your $2,000 maximum limit. The SSI asset limit for couples who apply is $3,000, and your monthly income added together can’t total more than $1,470.
3. Max Monthly SSI Payments for Individuals is $914, or $1,371 for Couples
However, SSI payments can go up in years when the SSA approves a COLA increase to keep up with inflation.
If Approved for SSI, You Also Qualify for Massachusetts State Supplement Program (SSP) Benefits
Once the SSA awards you SSI benefits, you can also get or Massachusetts disability payments from the state’s SSP program. However, you’ll still need to apply for SSP benefits through the state’s website. Here’s how much the Massachusetts SSP program pays each month for 2023:
- $128.82 for each person aged 65 and up
- $149.74 for each blind person
- $114.39 for each disabled person
What About Temporary or Short-Term Massachusetts Disability Benefits?
Massachusetts does offer two programs that pay temporary, emergency cash benefits. However, they’re specifically to help parents of children under age 18 or people aged 65 and older:
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC). This program makes cash payments of at least $513 per month to parents who qualify. It also offers a yearly clothing allowance payment of $400.
- Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC). To qualify for EAEDC, you must be unable to work for at least 60 days. In addition, your monthly income must be below $1,500 when you apply. In 2023, EAEDC pays an average of $401 per month in Massachusetts disability for no more than 60 days.
How to Triple Your Chances of Benefit Approval for Free
Applying for Massachusetts disability benefits is hard enough without knowing whether you’ll qualify for payments. A local Social Security attorney charges $0 today to review your claim and file your application paperwork.
You’re also nearly 3x more likely to get benefits if an attorney helps you file. If the SSA doesn’t award you benefits, then you pay the lawyer $0 for helping you. And if you’re successful, then you owe just one small fee afterwards.
Want to speak for free with a local claims expert about your own situation? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:
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.