Michiganders have the opportunity to apply for three different benefit programs once health issues force them to stop working. Yet only 3.2% of the state’s population currently gets Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Another 2.5% receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments each month. If you need to apply for Michigan disability benefits, we’ll explain eligibility requirements for all three programs below.
Michigan Disability Claimants Can Apply for Three Different Benefit Programs
The three Michigan disability programs are designed to help disabled 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! Each program has different payment amounts, medical screening questions and even financial limits for eligible applicants. 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 Michigan disability benefits you’re rightly owed as quickly as possible. Here’s the order we believe most Michigan disability claimants should apply for these benefit programs to maximize their payments:
- 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.
Program #1: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages a federal benefits program called SSDI. However, SSDI doesn’t cover temporary disabilities lasting less than 12 months (i.e., pregnancy, knee replacement surgery, etc.). Below, we’ll answer some typical questions people ask when applying for SSDI benefits.
1. How Can I Tell If I’m Eligible for SSDI?
Here’s how to tell whether you’re eligible for Michigan disability benefits through the SSDI program before you apply:
- Have you worked 5 in the last 10 years full-time at jobs that deducted FICA taxes from every paycheck? This is the first step in qualifying for Michigan disability payments 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 your insurance premium through your FICA taxes, 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 for less than a year, the SSA will automatically deny your claim. Only people whose conditions force them to stop working for 12+ months can qualify for Michigan disability benefits through SSDI.
- Are you at least 18, but younger than full retirement age and not currently receiving any Social Security benefits? SSDI is designed to help working-age Americans unable to work specifically due to mentally or physically disabling conditions. Once you reach your FRA, Michigan disability payments through the SSDI program automatically convert into Social Security retirement checks. Read this to learn why federal law prevents anyone from double-dipping on Social Security payments.
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 applicants get approved for benefits on their first try. And only 6% of Michigan disability applicants without a lawyer get approved the first time they apply.
Even if you have a terminal illness that fast-tracks your application for review, you’ll still wait at least six months. In October 2021, Michigan disability applications to the SSDI program took 352 days to process, on average. That’s a year! If you’re turned down the first time, you still have 60 days to file an appeal. If you live in Flint, you’ll wait 8 months, on average, to get your appeals case heard. But in Livonia, that stretches out to 12 months for an appeals court date. 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’ll pay nothing for professional help now. 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 the first time you apply. Plus, a lawyer gets paid nothing unless your case wins. And if you do win, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
3. How Much Does SSDI Pay to Michigan Disability Applicants?
The maximum SSDI payment in 2020 is $3,345/month. Nationwide, disabled workers get an average monthly SSDI payment of $1,358. The SSA averages your highest paychecks over a 35-year work history to determine your Michigan disability payment 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 approved, the SSA checks your disability status every 3, 5 or 7 years until you reach full retirement age. After that, your SSDI payments will automatically convert into Social Security retirement checks. Your monthly benefit amount won’t change, and you don’t need to do anything at that time. However, if the SSA decides your condition’s improved enough to start working again before that, 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 convincing medical evidence 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 aged Americans get by each month. It has very strict eligibility rules for those that apply. In fact, most are identical to the state’s Michigan disability assistance program. While SSI pays less money each month, you can potentially qualify at age 65 without being blind or disabled.
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 medically qualify for SSI. SSI offers permanent Michigan disability benefits paid 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 $1,350 in monthly income when you apply for SSI to qualify. The SSA looks at any money you get every month, like savings account interest, alimony or child support payments. Plus, you must have less than $2,000 in financial assets to your name. This includes your jewelry, stocks, bonds as well as your bank account, 401(k) or IRA balances. However, the SSA won’t count a few important things towards that $2,000 asset limit, like:
- Your house (if you own it) or the land it’s sitting on
- One primary vehicle for daily transportation needs
- Your wedding ring, furniture, clothing and certain household 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 applying for SSI must own less than $3,000 in combined assets and have less than $1,350 in monthly income.
3. Maximum Monthly SSI Payments Are $841/Person, or $1,261/Couple in 2022
Again, this monthly federal aid program only helps the poorest Americans that are blind, disabled or over 65. For this reason, 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. Please don’t lie to the SSA about anything when you apply for SSI. The SSA checks up on anyone getting SSI every three years to confirm they’re still eligible for benefits. If they think you don’t qualify for SSI anymore, 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 keep your benefits or IRS refund until that debt is repaid.
Program #3: Michigan State Disability Assistance (SDA)
If approved for either SSDI or SSI, you probably qualify for state-based Michigan disability payments as well. And if your condition isn’t expected to keep you from working for 12 months, apply for Michigan SDA first! Here are the basic requirements 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 receiving 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)
- Current SSDI or SSI beneficiaries can qualify for supplemental state-based payments
After approval, SDA claimants can get paid this amount in monthly Michigan disability benefits:
- $200 for each eligible individual
- $315 for an eligible 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 approved for SDA benefits. That way, you’ll up to $200 more in Michigan disability each month in addition to your federal payments.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Applying for Michigan disability is often confusing, 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? You can get confidential answers to your Michigan disability questions at a free, no-obligation consultation! All Michigan disability lawyers work on contingency, so you’ll pay nothing unless they help you get benefits. Denied once already and looking to appeal? A Michigan disability 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, 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!
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.