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Delaware Disability Benefits: Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
June 2, 2023  ·  8 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

In Delaware, nearly 30,000 people received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in 2022. They’ve navigated the application process you’re now starting — proof that you can do it too.

To help you complete the application and win benefits, this guide will explain who’s eligible for disability benefits, what to expect during the application process, and how much you could receive in monthly payments.


What Delaware disability program should I apply for?

Delaware doesn’t have its own disability program, but residents can apply for benefits through the federal government or purchase a private disability insurance policy. People who live in Delaware may qualify for the following programs:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The SSDI program is available through the federal government for people who’ve worked at least 10 years but can’t continue working because of a health condition. Your SSDI benefits are based on the income you’ve earned and the taxes you’ve paid, which is why SSDI has the largest payment of any disability program. SSDI recipients also get Medicare automatically.

  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): People who’ve never worked or haven’t worked enough to qualify for SSDI — including children and older Americans — can receive SSI benefits through the federal government. You’re more likely to be eligible if you have limited income and assets. If you do get SSI, you’ll also get Medicaid coverage.

  3. Veterans disability benefits: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers this program for active-duty and retired veterans who sustained an injury during their military service and can’t work because of it. You can receive VA benefits at the same time as SSDI and SSI benefits. Atticus can also help you with VA benefits.

  4. Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: Private disability insurance plans are available either through your employer or directly from an insurer. You can only qualify for benefits if you purchased your policy before you had to stop working. Most plans offer payments of up to 60% of your former paychecks, which may last months or years. Your insurer will likely require you to apply for SSDI even if you otherwise qualify for the plan’s long-term benefits.

The best option for most Delaware residents with disabilities is likely SSDI or SSI, so this guide will help you apply for those two programs. Learn more about the other programs in our guide to the types of disability benefits.

Skip the reading. See which benefits you qualify for in 2 minutes or less.

How to qualify for disability in Delaware

To qualify for disability, you first have to meet the SSA’s rigorous technical and medical criteria. SSDI and SSI have slightly different technical requirements, but their medical requirements are the same.

Medical qualifications for disability benefits

The primary medical qualification for SSDI and SSI is that you have a disability or medical condition that keeps you from working. That condition must also be expected to continue for at least one more year, if not the rest of your life.

People with severe or terminal conditions can more quickly qualify if their condition is on the SSA’s compassionate allowance list.

Your age is also a factor in the approval process. You’ll more easily qualify for disability after age 50 because you only have to prove that you can’t keep doing the kinds of work you’ve already done. Under age 50, qualifying is harder because you have to prove that your condition makes it impossible for you to do any kind of work, even work you could retrain for.

Technical SSDI qualifications

To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:

  1. You’re 66 years old or younger (below your full retirement age).

  2. You meet SSA work credit requirements, meaning you’ve paid enough taxes into Social Security. You’re more likely to qualify if you’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years. You can see how many work credits you have through a free SSA.gov account.

Read more about the technical SSDI rules.

Technical SSI qualifications

To qualify for SSI, you must meet two income and asset limits:

  1. Have little to no income, meaning less than about $900 per month.

  2. Have little savings or personal assets, meaning less than $2,000 for single individuals and $3,000 for married individuals.

Read more about SSI eligibility.


Conditions that qualify for disability in Delaware

The SSA maintains criteria for many qualifying health conditions. Some are more common than others, but as long as you can’t work because of a condition that will last for at least a year, you can qualify for disability benefits.

The most recent SSA data shows that Delaware residents receive disability benefits most commonly have the following types of conditions:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders: 34%

  • Mental health conditions: 30.3%

  • Neurological (nervous system) disorders: 10.3%

  • Cardiovascular (circulatory system) disorders: 7%

  • Injuries: 3.3%

  • Cancers (neoplasms): 3.1%

  • Respiratory conditions: 2.7%

  • Genitourinary disorders (kidney disease): 2%

  • Endocrine disorders: 1.8%

  • Digestive system disorders: 1.4%

  • Infectious and parasitic diseases: 1.2%

  • Congenital anomalies (birth defects): 0.5%

  • Hematological (blood) disorders: 0.3%

  • Skin conditions: 0.2%

  • Other qualifying conditions: 0.2%

For Delawareans who qualified with mental health conditions, these are the most common:

  • Depression, bipolar disorder, and related disorders: 2,917 people

  • Intellectual disorders: 2,591 people

  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders: 1,186 people

For more help, start with our article on how to qualify for disability with a mental health condition.


How to apply for disability in Delaware

The first step in applying for disability is to complete the SSI and SSDI application (both programs use the same form). Then, you’ll complete supplemental forms, like a work history report to explain your work experience and a function report to detail how your condition impacts daily activities. The SSA may request other forms or medical information to help them make a decision on your application.

There are two main ways to complete the application: fill it out yourself or work with a disability lawyer. If you are helping someone else apply, we have guides on applying for disability on behalf of a child and applying for disability for a family member.

How should I prepare my application?

Set aside plenty of time for filing. It could take at least one to two hours to complete the initial application, plus whatever time it takes to gather the necessary materials before you get started. A lawyer can help you with most of the process, but there are some key tasks you should be aware of:

  • Prepare all your personal records. This includes medical records, treatment forms, bank account information, work and income history, and contact information for your healthcare providers. The more medical documentation you have, the better.

  • Make sure to fill out the whole application. Double-check that you’ve answered every question on every form. This is an important way to avoid processing delays.

  • Answer questions honestly and consistently. The SSA will check whether your application responses match the information in your medical and supplemental forms. Be realistic and honest about your condition, including limitations, pain levels, and symptoms.

  • Follow up with the SSA right after you submit. Get in touch with someone at the SSA to confirm that they’ve received and are working through your application.

  • Respond to SSA requests immediately. This helps prevent processing delays, even though you’ll have up to 10 days to respond.

Get more help in our breakdown of the disability application process.

3 ways to submit your application

You have three options for submitting your application:

  1. Apply online through the SSA website.

  2. Apply over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or your local office.

  3. Apply in person at your local SSA office.

Applying online may be quick, but consider applying in person if you choose not to work with a lawyer. SSA employees can answer your questions about what the application questions are asking. However, they can’t give you personalized advice because that would qualify as legal advice (which only a lawyer can give). That means an SSA worker can’t advise you on which details you should include and exclude to make your application stronger.

Learn more: What Do Disability Lawyers Actually Do?

Getting help with the application

If you want help applying, then working with a lawyer is your best option. They can help you improve your application responses, fill out the application for you, handle all communications with the SSA, and walk you through future appeals. Not only can a lawyer make the process much less stressful, but applicants who work with a lawyer have higher chances of approval.

We at Atticus are a law firm, which means we can provide legal advice on filling out your application and finding the right lawyer for your case. To get help today, fill out our free 2-minute disability benefits quiz.


What happens after I apply for disability?

After you apply, the SSA will begin to review your application. The SSA will check whether you meet the technical criteria for SSDI, SSI, or both. Disability Determination Services (DDS) will also verify your medical eligibility.

You may have to complete a phone interview with the SSA or a quick consultative exam with a DDS doctor. The SSA will then make a final decision on whether to award you benefits. While this may sound quick, there are long processing periods between each step. As of 2023, the average wait time to get a decision on your application is just over six months.


Your chances of getting approved for benefits

It isn’t easy to get approved for disability. Don’t let that discourage you, but do anticipate that you will likely go through a few stages of denial and appeal before you get approved for benefits.

The SSA rejects about 70% of initial applications. If that happens, you can file for reconsideration. At that stage, the SSA rejects another 90% of applications. But even then, you can appeal and request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ).

While a hearing sounds intimidating, you’ll actually have the best odds of approval if you do appear in front of a judge. In 2022, more than half of the applicants who appealed their case to an ALJ won benefits. If you work with a lawyer at the hearing stage, you’re also three times more likely to win your claim.

Learn more about the chances of winning your disability appeal.


How long does it take to get disability benefits in Delaware?

As of March 2023, applicants in Delaware wait an average of 22 months — just under two years — from the time they apply until the time they’re approved. This is slightly shorter than the average wait across the United States.

The long wait is due to the multiple rounds of appeal that most applicants go through. Here are the average wait times for each stage in Delaware:

  • Initial decision: 6.1 months (184 days)

  • Reconsideration decision: 6.1 months (183 days)

  • Wait time for a hearing: 10 months (plus 1-3 months to get a decision)

That said, wait times do vary by hearing office. There is only one hearing office in Delaware, and you can see its wait time below:

Hearing office

Wait time for a hearing

Dover

10 months

How to speed up the process

Unfortunately, you can’t speed up the process. But there are some important ways to prevent delays. Submit your application as soon as possible and then follow up with the SSA. Quickly respond to any requests from the SSA’s requests to avoid processing delays. Your lawyer can also keep the process moving by staying in touch with the SSA and filing your appeals.

The good news is that if you do get approved, your first check will include months or years of back pay benefits, which cover the payments you missed because you had to wait for a decision.

Related article: Tips for Finding the Right Disability Lawyer


How much are disability benefits in Delaware?

Your actual benefit amount depends on the type of benefits you qualify for (or if you can get benefits from both programs at the same time) and your work history or income.

Average SSDI payments in Delaware

SSDI’s maximum monthly payment for 2024 is $3,627. However, Delawareans who receive disability have an average payment of $1,462.23 per month.

Your benefit amount won’t change based on where you live or your specific medical condition. The biggest determining factors for your check size are your personal income and how much you’ve paid into Social Security.

To see exactly how much your benefits will be, use our benefits estimator or log into your SSA.gov account:

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

Average
monthly check

$1,489

For a more in-depth look, here’s how SSDI payments are calculated.

Average SSI payments in Delaware

The maximum monthly payment for SSI in 2024 is $943, but Delaware residents have an average monthly payment of $640.62.

Your benefit amount will be based on your current monthly income. The SSA subtracts any money coming in each month from the SSI monthly maximum. (Learn what counts as income for SSI.) That means that if you have no other income, your SSA checks would be $943.


How to find a disability lawyer in Delaware

Applying for Social Security disability is challenging, but working with a lawyer can make the process much more approachable. Your lawyer can help you apply, handle appeals, communicate with the SSA, and represent you during a court hearing. This not only makes the application process easier, but it can also increase your odds of approval.

When searching for disability lawyers in Delaware, consider the following:

  • Reviews: Positive reviews are a great sign, but also look for patterns. If you see a lot of similar, negative feedback, that’s a sign they might not be the right fit for your case. A lawyer can’t win every case, but they should be respectful and communicative.

  • Communication: Your lawyer won’t contact you every week or every month, especially while you wait for the SSA to review your application. But your lawyer should be responsive when you have questions and as your application is processed.

  • Primary area of practice: Social Security benefits cases are unique. Look for a lawyer who specializes in disability benefits, as they’ll be more likely to know exactly what it takes to win your claim.

  • Location (to an extent): If a lawyer is local to your hearing office, they may know the judges and their preferences. This can help them make your case, but the reality is that Social Security disability rules are the same in every state. Don’t be afraid to consider a remote lawyer who consults over the phone. A helpful remote lawyer is better than an unhelpful local lawyer.

Atticus can find you a qualified lawyer who will make your case a priority and treat you with respect. Get started with our free disability benefits intake quiz and we’ll find you an experienced match. You’ll still get to choose whether to work with our lawyers, and you won’t pay anything until after you win benefits.

Ready to get benefits today?

Frequently asked questions about benefits in Delaware

How do I qualify for disability in Delaware?

To qualify for disability you need to have a condition that prevents you from working for at least a year. You’ll also need to meet certain work history requirements (for SSDI) or be within certain income limits (for SSI). For more on these requirements, read our full write up here.

What conditions qualify for disability in Delaware?

Any condition that will prevent you from working for a year or more can qualify for disability benefits. Some of the most common conditions include musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, nervous system diseases, and circulatory system diseases. See our full list of conditions that qualify here.

How long does it take to get approved for disability in Delaware?

It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Delaware. Most people who apply are initially rejected, and need to appeal this decision. If you appeal and go to a hearing, the process takes around two years on average. Read more: How Long It Takes to Get Approved for Disability Benefits

How much does disability pay in Delaware?

The average SSDI payment in Delaware is $1,462.23 per month. The average SSI payment is $640.62 per month. What you’ll earn depends on your income, or the amount you’ve historically paid into the Social Security program. Read more on what amount you can expect.

How should I prepare my disability application in Delaware?

Answer the application questions truthfully, consistently, and succinctly. You should also ensure that you gather and submit all your medical records with your application. The SSA paperwork can be complicated, so our legal team has written a full guide to the application here.

Does Delaware have a state disability program?

No, Delaware doesn’t have a state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have a state program. Residents of Delaware can apply for the federal disability programs of SSDI and SSI. Read more about the differences between SSDI and SSI here.


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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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