Disability Benefits in Texas: How to Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved
March 16, 2023 · 8 min read
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The Social Security Administration (SSA) awarded disability benefits to nearly 600,000 Texas residents in 2022. Remember that number. While the application process may feel intimidating now, they’re proof that you’re not alone.
This guide will help you apply for disability in Texas by explaining what you need to know about qualifying for benefits, navigating the application process, and determining the size of your potential benefit checks.
What Texas disability program should I apply for?
Texas, like most states, doesn’t have its own disability program. But the federal government and private insurance companies offer disability plans that Texas residents can qualify for:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): When you work, you pay taxes into the federal government’s SSDI program. Americans may qualify for SSDI if they have a long work history and have paid taxes but have a medical condition that makes it difficult for them to keep working. Because the program is based on work and tax history, it also offers the largest benefit amounts. Health insurance coverage is also included through Medicare.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Unlike SSDI, SSI provides benefits for Americans with a limited work history and low income. SSI has lower monthly payments than SSDI but also includes health insurance through Medicaid. The application is the same for both SSI and SSDI.
Veterans disability benefits: Active and retired veterans who can’t work because of an injury they received during their military service can get benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It’s also possible to receive VA benefits at the same time as SSDI and SSI payments. Learn more about how to apply for VA benefits.
Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: Many employers offer these policies, but you can also purchase one directly through an insurance company. If you had the policy before you stopped working, you can file a claim. If approved, you may receive payments of up to 60% of your former paycheck for months or even years. Long-term disability insurance plans usually require you to apply for SSDI or risk losing some of your payments.
The remainder of this guide will focus on SSDI and SSI since those are the best options for most Texas residents with disabilities.
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How to qualify for disability in Texas
The SSA has strict medical and technical criteria for applicants to qualify for disability, both in Texas and in other states. SSDI and SSI have the same medical requirements, but their technical requirements are slightly different.
Medical qualifications for disability benefits
To medically qualify for disability, you have to prove that you have a disability or medical condition that interferes with your ability to work. Medical documents must show that you’re unable to work for at least the next year because of your condition.
Certain severe and terminal conditions can make you eligible for an expedited review process. Check the SSA’s compassionate allowance list to see what automatically qualifies.
The SSA also considers your age. People over age 50 can more easily qualify for disability because they only have to prove that they can’t keep doing the types of jobs they’ve already done. Getting disability benefits is harder for anyone under the age of 50 because you have to prove that your condition makes it impossible for you to do any job, even if you retrain.
Technical SSDI qualifications
To qualify for SSDI, you must satisfy two requirements:
1. You’re 66 years old or younger.
2. You have enough work credits, which typically means you’ve worked for years and at least five of the last 10 years. You can use a free SSA.gov account to see how many work credits you have.
Common conditions that qualify for disability in Texas
Many conditions can qualify you for disability, but some are more common among current disability recipients. According to recent SSA data, the following are the most common conditions among people who receive benefits in Texas:
It’s possible to complete the application on your own, but you can also get help from a disability lawyer. If you’re helping someone else apply for benefits, try our guides for applying for disability benefits on behalf of a child or another loved one.
How should I prepare my application?
There are several things you can do to prepare your application. Remember that completing the application is time-consuming. Set aside hours to gather all your supplemental materials and fully answer all questions on the application forms. A lawyer can help manage these documents for you, but here’s what you can do yourself:
Gather your personal records. For the SSA, medical records are anything that demonstrates what your condition is and how it affects you. Gather all potentially relevant medical documents that you have, such as lab work, imaging results, and treatment results. Also collect contact information for your doctors, work and income history records, and bank account information.
Submit the application and all supplemental documents. Forgetting forms or even just skipping questions will lead to delays in processing your application. On your forms, make sure your responses are consistent throughout. The SSA checks for inconsistencies, so always be honest about your limitations, including pain levels and symptoms.
Follow up with the SSA after you submit. When you follow up, you’re confirming that the SSA has received and is processing your application. This ensures it doesn’t get lost in the thousands of other submissions. Your lawyer can also handle this for you.
Respond to SSA requests immediately. The SSA may need additional information at some point. You’ll have 10 days to provide it. That said, responding faster can help avoid longer processing times.
Applying in person is a great option if you choose not to work with a lawyer. The SSA staff can explain what the questions are asking and answer your questions about the application itself. However, only a lawyer can give you personalized advice on how to improve your application or what to avoid saying.
Working with a lawyer is the only way to get personalized advice about your application. A lawyer can strengthen your responses, complete and submit the application, and keep the track of your application throughout the process. They can take a lot of the stress off your shoulders and answer your questions throughout.
Here at Atticus, we provide free legal advice on filling out your application and finding the right lawyer for your case. Fill out our free 2-minute disability quiz to help with your application today.
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What happens after I apply for disability?
Once you apply for disability, the SSA will complete an initial review to verify that you meet all technical requirements. Disability Determination Services (DDS) will also review your medical eligibility. DDS may request additional documents from you and you may need to do a quick consultative exam with an SSA doctor. After these reviews, the SSA will then make a decision on your application. All said and done, this process takes just over six months on average.
Your chances of getting approved for benefits
Even if your condition limits your ability to work, getting approved for disability is difficult. That said, there are several stages of appeal you can go through and some do offer better chances for success.
Only about 25% of applicants get approved the first time they apply. Those that get rejected can file for reconsideration, at which point 90% of applications are again rejected by the SSA. Then you can appeal that decision to get a court hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ).
Your odds of approval go up in front of a judge. In 2022, more than half of the applicants who made their case to a judge won their claim. Applicants who work with a lawyer are also three times more likely to get approved for benefits.
In Texas, the wait time breaks down like this: In 2022, applicants waited an average of 6.1 months, or 184 days, to receive an initial decision. They then waited 6.1 more months, another 183 days, to receive a decision on their reconsideration request. The amount of time it takes to get a hearing depends on which SSA office handles your appeal. Texas residents typically wait about 15 months.
From the time they apply until the time they’re approved, the average Texas applicant waits two years and four months from the time they apply until the time they’re approved.
The average wait time varies by hearing office. The table below shows the average wait times for the eight Texas hearing offices.
Rio Grande Valley
Dallas North OHO
Apply as soon as you can since the application process can take years. The best thing you can do to keep the process moving is to quickly respond to all SSA requests. Unfortunately, there’s no other way to speed up the process beside submitting the best possible application from the start.
The good news is that you will receive compensation for your wait. If you get approved, your first SSA check will include back pay benefits for the months or years of payments you missed while waiting.
How much are disability benefits in Texas?
Disability benefits in Texas vary. Your benefit amount will depend on which program you qualify for. In some cases, you may be able to get both SSDI and SSI at the same time.
Average SSDI payments in Texas
In Texas, disability recipients receive an average payment of $1,341.37 per month, which is a little less than half of the maximum possible payment. The maximum monthly payment for SSDI is $3,627 in 2023.
Your benefit amount won’t change based on your specific medical condition or where you live, though. Instead, the SSA will evaluate your work and income history to determine how much you receive each month.
To see how much your benefits will be follow these steps:
In Texas, SSI recipients receive an average payment of $619.98 per month. The most you can possibly receive each month is $914.
To determine your benefit amount, the SSA will consider your other monthly income. The SSA subtracts any money you earn each month from the monthly maximum. If you have no other income, you’ll receive the full $914.
Applying for disability can be stressful and time consuming. A good disability lawyer can change that. They shoulder some of the burden by serving as your stand-in throughout the process. They’ll submit your application, communicate with the SSA, handle any appeals, and make your case in front of a judge. Applicants with a lawyer do have a higher chance of winning benefits.
To find a Texas disability lawyer, here are four things to take into account:
Reviews: You want a lawyer that’s easy to work with. If they have many positive reviews, it’s likely a sign that they’ll be a good fit for your case. But look specifically for patterns in the reviews. Especially in negative comments, is everyone saying the lawyer wasn’t reliable or was hard to contact? Those are definite red flags.
Primary area of practice: Lawyers who specialize in areas other than Social Security disability might not have the right skills to win your case. Look for lawyers who have verifiable expertise with SSDI and SSI cases. Don’t be afraid to ask them about it in your initial conversation (before you sign any contracts).
Location (to an extent): A local lawyer may know the judges at your hearing office, which can help them better argue your case to a judge. But disability law is the same in every state, and a remote lawyer can still represent you. Remote representation is a common practice and having the best lawyer is more important than having a local lawyer.
Communication: You’ll have questions and want updates throughout the process. Make sure your lawyer is willing to connect with you and doesn’t mind taking the time to answer your queries.
Practice history: If a lawyer has won disability benefits cases before, they can probably do it again with your case. New lawyers can also be successful, but disability law is complex and experience is a definite bonus.
Finding the right lawyer for your case is challenging. Here at Atticus, we’ve been reviewing disability lawyers for years. We can help match you with a trusted lawyer who is a good fit for your case and who will treat you with respect. To get started and to find a lawyer today (for free) fill out this quick Social Security disability quiz. Our team will reach out to help you understand next steps.
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Frequently asked questions about Texas disability benefits
What qualifies you for disability in Texas?
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 Texas?
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 Texas?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Texas. Most people who apply are initially rejected, and need to appeal this decision. If you appeal and go to a hearing, the process takes just over two years on average. Read more:How Long It Takes to Get Approved for Disability Benefits
How much does disability pay in Texas?
The average SSDI payment in Texas is $1,341.37 per month. The average SSI payment is $619.98. 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 Texas?
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 writtena full guide to the application here.
Does Texas have a state disability program?
No, Texas doesn't have its own state disability program. Only five states have a state program (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island). Residents of Texas can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.
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