Important: We updated this article in August 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. Michiganders have the opportunity to apply for three different benefit programs once health issues force them to stop working. Yet only 3% of the state’s population currently gets Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Another 2.3% receive Supplemental Security Income payments each month. If you need to apply for Michigan disability benefits, we’ll explain how to qualify for all three programs below.
Michigan Disability Claimants Can Apply for Three Different Benefit Programs
Three Michigan disability programs are designed to help people make ends meet once they’re unable to work. Even better, you may qualify for payments from both state and federal programs each month! So, read through each section below to figure out which program you’ll likely qualify for before you apply. That way, you can get paid the most money you deserve as quickly as possible.
Most Michigan disability claimants should apply for these programs in the following order:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Michigan State Disability Assistance (SDA)
We’ll explain why in detail under each program section listed below.
Important: If your condition won’t keep you out of work for at least 12 months, apply for Michigan SDA first!
Program #1: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages a federal benefits program called SSDI. However, SSDI doesn’t cover short-term disabilities lasting less than 12 months (i.e., pregnancy, knee surgery, etc.). Below, we’ll answer some typical questions people ask when filing for SSDI benefits.
1. How Can I Tell If I’m Eligible for SSDI?
Here’s how to tell if you may qualify for Michigan disability benefits through the SSDI program:
- Have you worked 5 in the last 10 years while paying FICA payroll taxes? This is the first step towards getting income through the SSDI program. Employees that don’t normally pay FICA taxes include teachers, firefighters, police officers, truck drivers, bartenders, or restaurant workers. Anyone who stopped working more than five years ago also won’t qualify for SSDI. That’s because SSDI is a federal disability insurance policy. Once you stop paying into Social Security, then that coverage automatically lapses.
- Will your medical issue last for at least 12 months or probably result in your death? If your doctor expects your symptoms to last less than a year, then the SSA will automatically deny your claim. Only people whose conditions force them to stop working for 12+ months can qualify for SSDI in Michigan.
- Are you at least 18, but younger than 67 and not currently getting other Social Security benefits? SSDI is designed to help those unable to work specifically due to mentally or physically disabling health problems. Once you turn 67, Michigan disability payments through the SSDI program automatically convert into Social Security retirement checks. Read this to learn why federal law prevents anyone from drawing two Social Security payments on the same work record.
If you answered “yes” to these three questions, then apply for Michigan disability benefits through the SSDI program.
2. If Approved, How Long Before I Get My First SSDI Payment?
Average wait time for the SSA to review your SSDI benefits application is 3-5 months. Federal law puts a mandatory five-month waiting period in place before anyone can get their first SSDI payment. That means you can’t get that first check any sooner than six months after filing your disability claim. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 people get benefits on their first try. And only 6% that file without a lawyer succeed on their first try.
Even if you have a terminal illness that fast-tracks your application for review, you’ll still wait at least six months. Last year, Michigan SSDI claims took 385 days to process, on average. That’s more than a year!
If you’re turned down the first time, you still have 60 days to file an appeal. If you live in Mt. Pleasant, you’ll wait 9 months, on average, to plead your case. But in Livonia or Lansing, that wait for a court date stretches out to 13 months. That’s why we strongly recommend getting a lawyer to help you apply the first time. All Social Security lawyers work on contingency, so you pay nothing for help filing your application.
Nearly 2 in 5 applicants get denied benefits for simple mistakes on their claim forms. A lawyer gives you the best chance to get approved for benefits on your first attempt. Plus, a lawyer gets paid nothing unless you’re successful.
3. How Much Does SSDI Pay to Michigan Disability Applicants?
The SSA averages your highest wages over a 35-year work history to determine your Michigan disability amount. However, your monthly payment can go up during years with a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase.
4. After Approval for Michigan Disability, Are SSDI Payments Permanent?
Unfortunately, no. Once benefits start, the SSA checks your disability status every 3, 5, or 7 years until you turn 67 years old. After that, your SSDI payments automatically turn into Social Security retirement. Your monthly pay amount won’t change, and you don’t need to do anything to make this happen. However, if the SSA decides you will get well enough to start working again sooner, they’ll stop paying you benefits.
Bonus Tip: Purchase your full medical records from every doctor that treats you to include with your SSDI claim. You need strong proof to support your SSDI claim, and free records are not enough to do that!
Program #2: Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
If you haven’t paid FICA taxes or worked in 5+ years, you should apply for Michigan disability through SSI instead. Federal assistance through SSI helps disabled, blind, and older people who cannot work get by each month. SSI has very strict income limits for those that apply. While SSI pays less money each month, you may qualify at age 65 based on age and low income status alone.
1. SSI Medical Eligibility Questions Are Identical to SSDI
If you’re under 65, you must be blind or meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled” to qualify for SSI. SSI pays permanent Michigan disability benefits each month, while the state’s SDA program does not.
2. SSI Applicants Need Very Little Income and Almost No Assets To Qualify
You must must have less than $1,470 in monthly income to qualify for SSI. The SSA looks at any money you get each month as your “income.” This includes things like savings account interest, alimony, or child support payments. You must own less than $2,000 in financial assets, which also includes your bank balance. They’ll count jewelry, stocks, bonds, 401(k) or IRA balances, etc. towards that limit. However, the SSA won’t count a few important things, like:
- Your house (if you own it) or the land it’s sitting on
- One primary vehicle for daily travel needs
- Your wedding ring, furniture, clothing and certain other items (tools, appliances, bedding, towels, etc.)
They’ll consider most things you might sell for cash as an asset that counts towards your $2,000 maximum limit. Couples must own less than $3,000 in combined assets and no more than $1,470 in monthly income to get SSI.
3. SSI Pays Up to $914 to Individuals, or $1,371 to Couples Each Month
Again, this monthly federal aid program only helps people who are blind, disabled, or over 65 and have very low income. So, the SSA investigates any reason to deny you SSI benefits.
Do you live rent-free with your family or get free meals through church? They’ll count those as money, and include them in your monthly SSI income limit.
The SSA also checks up on anyone getting SSI every so often to confirm they still qualify for benefits. If they think you can work again, you’ll get an overpayment letter in the mail. That means you’ll have to repay any SSI benefits they say you owe them all at once. If you can’t pay that amount, the SSA will garnish your benefits or IRS refund until that debt is repaid.
Program #3: Michigan State Disability Assistance (SDA)
If you get SSDI or SSI, then you probably qualify for state-based Michigan disability payments as well.
Here are the basic rules to apply for Michigan disability through the state’s SDA program:
- Must be a U.S. citizen or approved resident alien.
- Caregivers for disabled persons or individuals aged 65 and up may qualify.
- Must reside in Michigan and not currently receive benefits from another state.
- Cannot have cash or assets totaling more than $15,000 in value (doesn’t include your home, if you own it).
- Monthly income must be below $600 per month, or $7,200 each year.
- People who currently get SSDI or SSI can qualify for supplemental state-based payments.
After approval, SDA claimants can get paid this amount in monthly benefits:
- $200 for each individual
- $315 for an adult plus their spouse
Bonus Tip: If you get a Social Security award letter in the mail, immediately apply for Michigan SDA! It takes about 60 days after you file your application to get SDA benefits. That way, you’ll up to $200 more in Michigan disability each month in addition to your federal payments.
How to Get Free Expert Claim Help Near You
Applying for Michigan disability is difficult, and the process can take several months to complete. Why not have an experienced Social Security attorney help you get it right the first time? One can call you to discuss your claim questions free of charge during normal weekday business hours.
These lawyers charge $0 unless they help you get benefits.
Denied once already and looking to appeal? A lawyer can review your claim for mistakes to fix before you move forward. Lawyers won’t take on your case unless they think you’ll win. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay one small fee.
Want help from an expert on filing these claims without leaving your house? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz now 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.