Home of the Pentagon, tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, Virginia’s undoubtedly a military center. It’s also where the Revolutionary War and the Civil War ended. And it’s known as the “birthplace of the nation” since the first English settlement was in Jamestown. In recent years, however, “Virginia is for lovers” also comes to mind when discussing the Old Dominion (another state nickname). And that works too since Dirty Dancing was actually filmed at the Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, VA. Plus, Virginia is the U.S. Internet capital, with 50-70% of traffic flowing through five million square feet of data centers. Online dating, anyone? Just don’t tickle any women while in the state, however, since apparently that’s still illegal? But whether you’re a lover or a fighter, Virginia’s got you covered. And that includes when you’re disabled and need Virginia disability benefits.
What Virginia Disability Programs Are Available for Residents?
There are two major Virginia disability programs available to residents: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The former looks mostly at prior work history, the latter at financial need. As both programs are federally funded, applicants must also prove that they meet the federal definition of disability to qualify.
Though the Social Security Administration (SSA) ultimately administers any benefits, Virginia Disability Determination Services (DDS) examines applicant eligibility. Part of the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, (DARS), the DDS commits to following federal regulations to make decisions. The DDS bases determinations on an applicant’s medical, psychological, and financial information.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), 22% or one in five Virginia adults has a disability. But many of the 1,437,186 individuals struggling with mobility (10%), cognition (10%), vision (3%) or other impairments aren’t getting benefits! Why? Well, in some cases they may lack awareness of the programs available. But oftentimes confusion about the application process or an inability to understand the options hinders residents getting assistance they need.
This is one reason why hiring a Social Security disability attorney may be a smart move, but we’ll get to that later.
What Is the Difference Between SSDI Versus SSI in Virginia?
As mentioned above, there are two Virginia disability programs for which residents can apply.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI is specifically for adults aged 18-65 with debilitating health issues that prevent them from working for 12+ months. These are long-term benefits for long-term issues.
This Virginia disability program supports disabled individuals who have a qualifying previous work history. And as part of that employment, they must have paid Social Security taxes (which fund this program).
The SSA measures the work history part needed for SSDI eligibility in “work credits.” Generally, applicants must have worked about one-fourth of their adult lives and five of the last 10 years. That is the average minimum to earn sufficient work credits.
Consideration for these Virginia disability benefits means an applicant:
- Meets the SSA’s definition of disability and has severe functional limitations.
- Is unable to work for 12 months or more owing to this condition.
- Has a qualifying work history where they paid Social Security taxes.
The maximum SSDI monthly payment a person can get for Virginia disability in 2022 is $3,345. On average, however, qualifying disabled workers get around $1,358/month. Ultimately, the monthly payment amount received reflects how much a person made while working before becoming disabled.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is the other Virginia disability program available for very low-income residents. It provides monthly cash benefits to children and adults who meet strict financial and resource guidelines.
Applicants must once again satisfy the definition of disability but there is no work history requirement. That’s because general tax revenues pay for those benefits, not Social Security taxes.
Consideration for these Virginia disability benefits means an applicant:
- Meets the SSA’s federal definition of disability.
- Has less than $2,000 in resources ($3,000 per couple).
- Shows “countable income” lower than the monthly SSI federal benefit rate (FBR).
To calculate countable income there is a rather complicated formula. But that number determines SSI eligibility. Keep in mind, “countable” includes income from employment but also funds received for alimony, workers’ comp, and veterans’ benefits.
Applicants cannot make more than the federal benefit rate (FBR) monthly, and for 2022 that is $841 solo/$1,261 per couple. That is also the maximum a person can receive for SSI payments.
What Other Benefits Are Available to Virginia Residents?
Virginia spends about $18.4 billion each year on disability benefits, or 31% of the state’s healthcare spending. However, only about 155,200 residents are receiving SSI benefits.
Beyond federal SSDI and SSI benefits, Virginia disability applicants should also explore the supplemental state programs available.
Unlike most other states, approval for SSI doesn’t mean you’re automatically eligible for Medicaid in Virginia. While Virginia’s asset limits for Medicaid are the same as for SSI, the income limits are a bit higher. Virginia bases eligibility for Medicaid on the Federal Poverty Level, and it is a joint federal/state program. To apply for Medicaid, visit Virginia’s Medical Assistance Programs.
Virginia also offers a generous supplemental payment for disabled individuals in assisted living facilities or adult foster care. The Virginia Department of Social Services administers these “auxiliary grants,” which are 80% state funded/20% local. They are meant solely to help with the cost of long-term care.
Individuals who are still unsure which programs to pursue should check out the SSA’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool. Also, a skilled Social Security attorney can guide you towards all the Virginia disability benefits for which you may qualify.
How Long Will It Be Before I Receive Any Virginia Disability Benefits?
Regardless of where you live, federal law mandates a five-month waiting period before the SSA will issue any disability payments.
However, in emergency situations, applicants may ask for the Compassionate Allowances classification (CAL). This is meant only for dire cases where it’s clear the person meets the SSA’s definition of disability. We’re talking severe brain injuries or terminal diagnoses where time is of the essence. In these extenuating circumstances, requesting a CAL designation may help expedite processing.
Otherwise, the average case processing time in Virginia right now is about 393 days, which is less than that 418-day national average. Still, that can seem like an eternity when you really need assistance! Also, if you’re denied upon first application, filing an appeal is the next step. Currently, there is an 11 month wait time for adjudication for Virginia disability hearings in one of five offices.
In other words, it’s going to take a while for you to see any payments, even if you’re successful. And that is yet another reason to consider retaining counsel when applying for disability. Studies show applicants with representation are three-times more likely to settle their cases earlier and with a more positive outcome.
How Do I Apply for Virginia Disability Benefits?
Virginians who think they may qualify for disability have a few different ways they can apply for benefits. Claimants must first file directly with the SSA, who will then forward the paperwork to the Virginia DDS. An individual can choose to apply:
- Online. Visit the SSA disability portal. This is the preferred method for the SSA.
- By telephone. Call 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) anytime during regular business hours.
- In person. Find a local office by ZIP code on the SSA locator site. However, many offices right now have limited staff or appointments owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s best to first try to file online or by phone, if possible
Do I Need a Disability Lawyer?
Though you don’t need to have a lawyer to apply for disability, we’ve mentioned the many benefits throughout this article.
One other thing to keep in mind is that it won’t cost you anything up front! That’s because all disability attorneys in our network work on contingency. So, until you settle your claim, you pay nothing. And if you do win, you only pay a small, one-time fee deducted from your settlement.
Basically, getting the benefits you deserve can sometimes feel like a fight. But with the right lawyer in your corner, you can approach the process with nothing but love!
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