Important: We updated this article in January 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. They say things are bigger in Texas. And that’s not an exaggeration considering that the state of Texas is actually larger than any country in Western Europe! In fact, Texas was its own country from 1836 to 1845 when it finally agreed to join the U.S. Also, three of the largest cities in North America are there: Houston (#4), San Antonio (#7), and Dallas (#9). Plus, Texas boasts 72,000 miles of highway! But what if you’re one of its 28.64 million residents on a road to nowhere with your Texas disability claim? Fret not. We’re here to help our friends who live in the “Friendship State” learn how to get the benefits you need.
What Texas Disability Programs Are Available to Residents?
Currently there are 5,435,500 adults in Texas with a disability, or about 26% of the population. But only a few of those people get any of the $56.7 billion Texas spends on annual disability claims.
Qualified individuals should know there are two federal assistance programs in Texas available through the Social Security Administration (SSA). They include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The former looks mostly at prior work history, the latter at financial need. Both require applicants to also meet the federal definition of disability.
Disability Determination Services (DDS), part of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, determines state-level eligibility. The DDS is also responsible for making payments even though these programs use federal money. But how do you know if you qualify and how much assistance can you get?
Related: Virginia Disability Benefits: How to Apply & Qualify
How Can a Person Qualify for SSDI in Texas?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is the first Texas disability option available to those who qualify. It is for adults aged 18-66 with long-term health issues that prevent them from working.
This program supports disabled individuals who have enough prior work history, which the SSA measures in “work credits.” Typically, people must have worked about 25% of their adult lives and five of the last 10 years. That’s usually what’s needed to acquire enough work credits for the “non-medical qualification” part of the application.
To qualify for Texas disability benefits through SSDI, you must:
- Meet the SSA’s federal definition of disability.
- Be unable to work for 12 months or more owing to said serious medical condition.
- Show previous work in jobs where you paid Social Security payroll taxes.
How Can a Person Qualify for SSI in Texas?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the other Texas disability program available. It provides monthly cash benefits to children and adults who don’t have the necessary work history for SSDI.
However, applicants must still satisfy the definition of disability. They must also meet very strict income and resource limits. But there is no work history requirement since this program is funded through general revenue taxes (not Social Security).
Currently 633,515 people in Texas get SSI benefits, most of whom are blind or have severe health problems.
To qualify for Texas disability benefits through SSI, you must:
- Meet the SSA’s federal definition of disability.
- Have less than $2,000 in resources ($3,000 per couple).
- Show “countable income” less than the monthly SSI federal benefit rate (FBR).
“Countable income” includes work pay but also things like child support, workers’ comp, and VA benefits. One reason you may wish to consult with an attorney is that it’s hard to know what counts against you.
On the positive side, however, Texas automatically enrolls people awarded SSI in Medicaid. And while it doesn’t offer everyone extra funds, there’s a modest state supplement available for people living in Medicaid-funded care homes.
Disabled people in Texas should also visit Your Texas Benefits to see and apply for other benefits. Programs like SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) and TANF (temporary assistance for needy families) can really help lessen the burden.
How Much Are Texas Disability Payments?
The maximum SSDI monthly payment a person can get for Texas disability in 2023 is $3,627. However, the more common average SSDI check is around $1,483 per month. Why the difference? How much a person made while working determines how large (or small) the total amount of their monthly payment.
Applicants who qualify for SSI can receive a maximum benefit of $914 per month, which is the 2023 federal benefit rate (FBR). A couple can receive up to $1,371 monthly in SSI. Remember, this is also the most “countable income” someone who applies for SSI can show and receive benefits.
How Long Will I Have to Wait to Get Disability Payments?
The good news for people in Texas is that the average processing time for claims is 337 days. If you answer that with “What, almost a year?” Keep in mind that the national average is 418 days. So, Texas is ahead of the curve.
Still, getting SSDI or SSI benefits is a lengthy process. In Texas, if your initial application is denied, you must then ask for a reconsideration from the DDS. This is your first step to appeal a claim’s denial. If you still don’t win, the next step is to ask for a hearing with a judge. And currently the average wait time for a hearing is almost 10 months.
Plus, federal law requires everyone to wait five months from the onset of their disability before getting any payments. In other words, even in a state that has “shorter” wait times, getting benefits could take more than a year.
In extremely dire cases, people may apply for the Compassionate Allowances program (CAL). This is only for emergency cases, however. It’s just for claims where time is of the essence and the condition is severe. Asking to join CAL may help speed up processing.
A skilled lawyer can help you get through all these layers of appeals. Or, even better, they can keep you from having to appeal at all. Studies show people with lawyers have a much higher chance of winning benefits on their first try.
How Do I Apply for Texas Disability?
In Texas, the SSA automatically checks to see if someone qualifies for SSI when they apply for SSDI. That means you don’t have to do all the paperwork twice. Though sometimes a person will qualify for both programs, it’s usually just one or the other.
You can submit a Texas disability application one of three ways:
- Online through the portal at SSA.gov.
- By phone during regular business hours through the SSA’s toll-free service line — 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).
- By visiting a local Social Security office. However, you may need to make an appointment before you go in.
The fourth option is to retain a Social Security lawyer who can file the paperwork for you. All disability attorneys offer contingency-based legal help. So until the SSA awards you benefits, you pay nothing. And if you do win, you only pay one small fee.
But the amount of stress you’ll avoid by having a “friend” in your corner during this process? Well, that’s — like Texas — huge.
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Kimberly Dawn Neumann
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 @KimberlyNeumann