Florida disability beneficiaries getting payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA) make up just 4.2% of the state’s population. With a median age of 42, you’d think more Floridians would apply (and qualify) for Social Security disability. If you’re out of work for 12 months, here’s what you need to know about applying for disability in the state of Florida.
Two Ways to Get Approved for Florida Disability Benefits
The two programs we’ll talk about below are designed to help disabled people make ends meet each month. Medical eligibility for both programs is screened the exact same way for every applicant. However, each program has other unique requirements that determine which one you may qualify for. The Social Security Administration manages two federal programs that provide Florida disability benefits:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Luckily, Florida disability claimants can apply for both programs at the same time using the exact same forms. When you file, check the box on your claim form that says you’re applying for both. It’s that simple!
Eligibility Requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits
The SSA manages a federal benefits program for people whose health issues force them to stop working. However, SSDI isn’t available to people who haven’t worked recently or for enough years to qualify. Keep reading to find out if you may qualify for Florida disability benefits through the SSDI program.
1. Who Can Apply for SSDI?
Here’s how to tell whether you have SSDI coverage before you apply for benefits:
- Have you paid FICA taxes for most years you’ve worked up until now? If not, then you likely don’t have enough work credits to qualify for Florida disability benefits through the SSDI program.
- Did you stop working within the last five years? SSDI is a federal insurance program. Once you stop working full-time for 60 months, your coverage lapses. So if your condition started six years ago and you haven’t worked since then, you won’t qualify for SSDI.
- Does your doctor say you’ll need to stop working at least one year for health reasons? Your health issue must last for 12 months or longer or result in your death to qualify for SSDI. If you get well enough to go back to work within a year, the SSA automatically denies your claim.
- Has a doctor treated you within the last 90 days? If not, the SSA will flag your Florida disability claim for a DDS review. It’s possible to qualify based on this exam, but many people don’t. If this describes you, talk to a Florida disability lawyer for free before you apply.
- Are you aged 18-65, but not currently receiving any Social Security benefits? SSDI is a disability insurance program that covers working-age people who’ve paid FICA taxes. If you’re under 18 or haven’t worked, you cannot qualify. And once you reach full retirement age, the government automatically converts any SSDI benefits into regular Social Security. The SSA determines when that happens based on your birth year and month; find your FRA in the retirement chart here.
If you answer “yes” to every question above, you likely qualify for SSDI. If you answered “no” to anything, skip to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) section now.
2. How Long Does It Take to Get Your First Florida Disability Payment After Your SSDI Claim’s Approved?
The SSA needs about 3-5 months to review every SSDI application for Florida disability benefits. Federal law also requires a five-month waiting period before the SSA can pay anyone SSDI benefits after they’re approved. Unfortunately, only 1 in 3 Florida disability applicants get approved for benefits from either program. However, getting a lawyer to help you file doubles your chances for approval the first time you apply. Florida disability applications take 425 days, on average, to process.
Getting a Social Security lawyer to file your claim makes you nearly 3x more likely to receive benefits. Plus, these lawyers all work on contingency. In other words, they won’t help you if they don’t think you qualify for benefits. Plus, federal law says a lawyer can’t charge you anything if the SSA rejects your first claim. If this happens to you, you’ll likely wait another two years (on average) to get your first payment.
Right now, it takes one year to schedule a Florida disability appeals hearing, on average. How soon can you get benefits after claim approval? Six months after you apply is the soonest the SSA will deposit your first payment. But if your first claim’s denied, you’ll have to wait almost a year for an appeals hearing. Florida disability claimants in Tallahassee have the shortest average wait time at 359 days, or 10 months. If you live in St. Petersburg, it’ll take you 484 days (14 months!) to appeal your case.
3. How Much Money Can Florida Disability Applicants Get In SSDI Benefits?
The maximum Florida disability payment from the SSDI program is $3,345/month. However, Florida disability beneficiaries on SSDI typically get $1,358 per month. The SSA averages your highest wages earned over a 35-year working history to figure out your monthly payment. However, the SSDI benefit amount you get paid each month may change in years with a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase.
4. If My Claim’s Approved, How Long Does SSDI Pay Me Florida Disability Benefits?
Florida disability payments aren’t permanent after your SSDI claim’s approved. Instead, the SSA confirms your disability still prevents you from working every 3-7 years. That confirmation process keeps happening until you reach your full retirement age. When you reach your FRA (depending on your birth year), Florida disability payments convert into Social Security retirement. The amount deposited into your bank account each month won’t change, and you don’t need to file any paperwork. That’s why people older than their FRA cannot qualify for Florida disability payments through the SSDI program.
Bonus Tip: Buy copies of your full medical records from your doctor before you apply for Florida disability benefits. Receipts, free statements in the mail and credit card bills are not enough medical evidence to prove your claim!
Eligibility Requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
If you’re 65 or older, haven’t paid FICA taxes or stopped working more than five years ago, apply for SSI. SSI is a federal assistance program that helps only the poorest Americans who cannot work make ends meet. This program also has financial eligibility requirements you must meet in order to qualify for monthly payments. While the SSI program pays a lot less to approved Florida disability claimants, payments keep going after your 65th birthday.
1. There’s No Difference In Medical Eligibility Requirements for SSI & SSDI
If you’re blind or meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled,” then you’re medically eligible for either SSI or SSDI. Both programs offer long-term Florida disability benefits to residents whose health issues stop them from working. However, it’s much easier to qualify for SSI if you’re under 18 or over age 65 when you apply.
2. You Need Very Limited Income and Almost No Assets To Qualify for SSI
Your income must be less than $1,350/month to qualify for Florida disability benefits under the federal SSI program. This income includes money earned from working or any other sources, like savings account interest, alimony or child support payments. You must also have less than $2,000 in financial assets to your name to qualify for SSI Florida disability payments. This means anything you can sell for cash, like jewelry, stocks, bonds, plus 401(k) or IRA account balances. However, the SSA won’t count certain items when totaling up your assets towards that limit, including:
- Your house and the land it sits on (for owned, not rented properties)
- One vehicle you use for household transportation (car, truck, motorcycle, boat, etc.)
- Your wedding ring, furniture, clothing and other items you need for daily living (appliances, bedding, towels, etc.)
If you own many things or have too much money in the bank, the SSI automatically denies your SSI claim. For eligible couples, the max amount in assets you can own is $3,000. In addition, you cannot earn or receive more than $1,350/month to qualify for SSI when applying as a couple.
3. The Maximum SSI Florida Disability Payment Is $841/Month for Individuals, $1,261/Month for Couples
It’s not a lot of money, but if you can’t work, then every penny counts. The SSA looks for anything that may disqualify you from meeting the SSI program’s financial requirements. Living rent-free with a relative or get free meals at church? The SSA treats those things like free money. The SSA checks on SSI recipients every three years to confirm nothing has changed. If you aren’t completely honest on your application, expect an SSI overpayment letter in the mail. That means you’ll have to pay back any SSI money the SSA says they paid you by mistake. They can withhold your Florida disability payments if you can’t pay back what you owe at once. If you usually get an IRS refund, the SSA can take that money until the debt you owe is repaid.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Applying for Florida disability benefits is easier with legal assistance. An experienced Social Security attorney can give you legal advice over the phone today. Those who qualify for legal assistance through this website typically receive $10,000 in lump-sum backpay as well as monthly benefits. All Florida disability lawyers work on contingency, so if you don’t get benefits, you owe $0 for legal assistance. And if you do win, then 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.