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 for disabled people 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 may provide monthly benefit payments. However, you cannot get money from all three at the same time. So, read each section below to figure out which program’s requirements you can meet most easily before you apply. Most Massachusetts disability applicants should file claims 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 disabled workers called SSDI. However, SSDI only covers long-term or permanent disabilities, not temporary ones. (Rare or terminal illnesses that qualify under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances initiative are the only exceptions.) Below, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about SSDI.
1. Who Should Apply for SSDI?
Here’s how to tell if you’re potentially eligible for SSDI before submitting your application:
- Have you paid FICA taxes while working full-time for 5 in the last 10 years? This is the first step towards qualifying for Massachusetts disability payments funded through the SSDI program. Some people who normally don’t pay FICA taxes include service-industry workers (bartenders, waitstaff); union members (teachers, firefighters) 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, and your FICA taxes pay for your policy’s monthly premiums. Once you stop paying them 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 expect to start working again in less than a year. If you have a temporary injury or illness, then SSDI isn’t the right program for you.
- Are you at least 18, but younger than full retirement age and not currently drawing any Social Security benefits? SSDI is an insurance program that working-age Americans pay for with every paycheck. Once you reach full retirement age (66-67, depending on your birth year and month), SSDI payments automatically convert into Social Security retirement.
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?
The SSA says it takes them 3-5 months to review each SSDI benefits application. Plus, federal law requires a five-month waiting period before the agency can pay benefits to anyone that gets approved. That means 6 months after you apply for SSDI is the soonest you can get your first Massachusetts disability check. Unfortunately, 2 in 5 first-time SSDI applicants get turned down for simple mistakes on the claim paperwork. Things like stapling two pages together or writing in the margins can get your first application denied! If you decide to chance it and get denied, you’ll wait 1-2 years before your appeal goes through. That’s why we recommend getting a lawyer to help you apply for free. All Social Security lawyers in our network work on contingency. That means they cannot charge you anything until after your claim’s already approved. This year, Massachusetts disability claims for SSDI take 468 days to process, on average. That’s almost 16 months! If you’re denied the first time and have to appeal, the first step (Reconsideration) takes about 100 days. Then if you’re denied again, you have 60 days left to request an appeals hearing. Right now, it takes 12 months to get your appeals hearing scheduled in Springfield, MA. But if you live in Lawrence, you’ll wait 20 months before your appeals hearing date comes up, on average.
3. How Much Does SSDI Pay Each Month In Massachusetts Disability Benefits?
The highest monthly SSDI payment amount anyone can qualify for in 2020 is $3,011. However, $1,258 is the average payment amount for disabled workers nationwide. The SSA averages your highest wages earned over a 35-year work history to find your monthly SSDI payment. Much like regular Social Security, that equals about 40% of your monthly paycheck. 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 re-confirms your disability status every 3-7 years until you reach your FRA. After that, your Massachusetts disability benefits automatically convert into regular Social Security retirement. 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: Include copies of your full medical records purchased from your doctor along with your SSDI application. You need convincing evidence to prove your condition 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 or haven’t worked recently in jobs where you paid Social Security taxes? Then you might qualify for Massachusetts disability benefits through the SSI program. It’s a federal monthly assistance program designed to help the poorest blind, disabled and older Americans. But unlike SSDI, the SSI program looks at your finances before deciding whether you may qualify. Read on to learn how the SSA screens SSI applicants based on health, income and assets, plus monthly payment amounts.
1. Medical Eligibility Requirements for SSDI and SSI Are Identical
You must be blind or meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled” to medically qualify for SSI or SSDI. Your medical condition must last at least one year or become fatal in order for you to qualify for SSI.
2. You Need Very Little Income and Almost No Assets To Get SSI Benefits
You cannot currently receive more than $1,260 in monthly income to qualify for SSI. That includes any money you get from other sources, like earned interest, alimony or child support payments. You must also hold less than $2,000 in assets under your name to qualify for Massachusetts disability benefits through SSI. Asset examples that they’ll count towards that limit include jewelry, stocks, bonds, your bank account, 401(k) or IRA funds. However, the SSA excludes certain things when counting up your total assets, such as:
- Your home and the land it’s on, if you own it
- One vehicle used for daily transportation needs
- Your wedding ring, furniture, clothing and household goods (i.e., appliances, 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 can’t total more than $1,260 combined.
3. Maximum Monthly SSI Payments In 2020 Are $783/Person, or $1,175/Couple
When you apply, realize the SSA looks for anything that makes you ineligible for Massachusetts disability through the SSI program. Does your family let you live rent-free at home? How about free meals at church on Sundays? The SSI program counts both those things as “free money,” and you must list them on your application. Once approved, the SSA checks on you every three years to confirm that you still qualify for SSI. If they decide you no longer qualify, you’ll probably get an overpayment letter in the mail. When that happens, you must repay any SSI benefits the SSA says you received “in error.” If you can’t pay it all back at once, they’ll garnish your benefits until the debt is fully repaid.
If Approved for SSI, You Also Qualify for Massachusetts State Supplement Program (SSP) Benefits
You can’t get approved for Massachusetts disability payments through the SSP program unless you’ve already applied for SSI. But the good news is, once you’re approved for SSI, you can get a little more money each month in SSP payments! (However, you’ll still need to apply for SSP benefits through the state’s website.) Here’s how monthly Massachusetts disability payments from the SSP program break down in 2019:
- $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 offer short-term, emergency financial aid. However, they’re specifically designed to help parents of children under age 18 or people aged 65 and older. In other words, they aren’t meant to help people looking for monthly Massachusetts disability benefits. More about Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC). Essentially, if your pre-tax monthly income is more than $300-$731, then you probably won’t qualify for those two programs. You also can’t get payments for more than two months.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Applying for Massachusetts disability benefits is hard enough when you don’t feel good, but it doesn’t have to be. Why not get an experienced Social Security attorney to help you file your claim? All Massachusetts disability lawyers provide contingency-based help, so you won’t pay anything out of your own pocket. We recommend this option because just 1 in 4 people who applied for both disability programs got approved in 2018. A Massachusetts disability lawyer can double your chances for approval the first time you apply. (Average Massachusetts disability approval rate in 2018: 48% for SSDI, 46% for SSI). And you know what? No attorneys will even accept your case unless they think you’re clearly eligible for benefits! Then 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!