Hawaii Disability Benefits: How to Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved
March 31, 2023 · 10 min read
Why trust us?
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.
Almost 25,000 Hawaiians receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). They’ve all completed the long application and been approved — proof that you’re not alone no matter how intimidating the process may seem.
To help you apply for disability in Hawaii, this guide will explain what you need to know about eligibility, the application process, and the size of your potential benefit checks.
What Hawaii disability program should I apply for?
1. Hawaii Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI): Hawaiians may qualify for statewide TDI, which can last for up to 26 weeks. To claim benefits, you must have a non-work-related injury or illness that will temporarily leave you unable to work (if it’s work-related, apply for workers’ compensation instead).
There’s also a work history requirement. To be eligible for TDI, you must have worked at least 14 weeks in Hawaii before your injury or illness and been paid for at least 20 hours of work. You can apply after a seven-day waiting period following your injury/illness. If you’re approved, you may receive up to 58% of your former wages, although the most you can receive per week is $765 in 2023.
2. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI is a federal program available to Americans who’ve worked before but have a medical condition that makes it impossible for them to continue. Of all disability programs, SSDI has the largest benefits. Your actual benefit amount depends on how much income you’ve earned and how much you’ve paid in Social Security taxes. You’re more likely to qualify if you’ve worked and paid taxes for at least five of the last 10 years. SSDI also comes with Medicare coverage.
3. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): People with limited income and assets can qualify for disability benefits through SSI. This program is also a good fit for people who haven’t worked much or at all, like a child with a disability. You’ll also get Medicaid health insurance in addition to your SSI payments.
4. Veterans disability benefits: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers its own disability program for active and retired veterans who were injured during their military service and can’t work because of it. It’s also possible to get VA benefits alongside SSDI and SSI. Learn more about applying for VA benefits.
5. Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: You can purchase a private disability policy from an insurance company, but many employers also sponsor them. You can file a claim if you had a disability insurance plan before your medical condition developed. Payments are usually worth up to 60% of your former paychecks and may last for months or years. Check your individual plan details for specifics. Long-term disability insurance plans usually require you to apply for SSDI anyway.
Skip the reading. See which benefits you qualify for in 2-minutes or less.
How to qualify for disability in Hawaii
To qualify for Social Security disability, you need proof that you meet specific medical and technical criteria. The medical requirements for SSDI and SSI are the same, but the technical requirements vary.
Medical qualifications for disability benefits
Before you can medically qualify for benefits, you need proof that your disability or medical condition interferes with your ability to work. This includes confirmation from your doctor that they expect your condition to last for at least one more year — or for the rest of your life.
If you have a severe or terminal condition listed on the SSA’s compassionate allowance list, you can go through an expedited process for benefits.
Qualifying for disability is also easier for people over age 50 because they only have to prove that their condition makes it impossible to continue the kinds of jobs they’ve already done. It’s more difficult for applicants under age 50 to qualify because they have to show the SSA that they can’t do any job, including jobs they need to retrain for.
Technical SSDI qualifications
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:
You’re 66 years old or younger.
You meet work credit requirements, which means 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. Check how many credits you have by creating a free SSA.gov account.
The Social Security disability application has two parts: the main application form and supplemental forms. To apply, complete the full disability benefits application. Then you’ll need to complete certain supplemental forms, which most include a work history report about your previous work experience and a function report about the impact your condition has on your daily life.
You can apply on your own, or you can work with a disability lawyer. The process is long and complicated, but a lawyer can guide you on how to increase your chances of approval.
Applying may take longer than you think. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to gather all the necessary documents and complete the application forms. While a lawyer can help you manage all of your documentation, you should still do the following:
Gather all your personal records. This includes medical records, treatment forms, bank account information, work history, and contact information for all relevant healthcare providers. Having everything together will make future steps easier.
Submit the application and all supplemental documents. Make sure to submit all the necessary forms and to answer every question. Missing information will mean processing delays.
Be honest. Be realistic and honest about your pain levels, symptoms, and limitations. This will also help keep your application consistent. The SSA looks to see whether the answers on any of your forms and documents contradict each other.
Follow up with the SSA after you submit. Since the SSA receives a high number of submissions, it can help to call the SSA to ensure they’ve received and are processing your application. Your lawyer can also do this for you.
Respond to SSA requests immediately. You can take 10 days to respond when the SSA requests more information but if you respond faster, you may avoid additional delays.
If you choose not to work with a lawyer, consider applying in person. The SSA staff can help explain what the application questions are asking. That said, they can’t give you personalized advice, like how to make your responses stronger or what you should and shouldn’t say. Only a lawyer can give that kind of advice. A lawyer can also fill out and submit your application for you.
Working with a disability lawyer is the best way to get help with the disability application. They can make your application stronger or complete it for you. They can follow up with the SSA and help you respond to requests for more information. This all makes the application process easier on you. Here at Atticus, we provide free legal advice on filling out your application and finding the right lawyer for your case. Fill out our 2-minute disability quiz to get started.
What happens after I apply for disability?
Once you apply, the SSA will review your application to confirm that you meet all technical requirements. Your application will move to Disability Determination Services (DDS) to confirm that you’re medically eligible, which likely requires a quick consultative exam with an SSA doctor.
The SSA will then make a decision to approve or deny your application. The process takes 6.1 months on average.
Your chances of getting approved for benefits
Getting approved for disability isn’t easy no matter what condition you have. Knowing that now can help you manage the many stages of denial and appeal that most applications go through.
The reality is that the SSA rejects as many as 75% of first-time applicants. At that point, applicants can file for reconsideration, but the SSA does reject another 90% of those applications. If you do get rejected, you can appear for a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ) to appeal the decision.
A hearing may seem daunting, but this stage actually has the highest odds of approval. More than 50% of applicants who made their case in front of a judge in 2022 won their claim. Applicants are also three times more likely to win benefits if they work with a lawyer.
In 2022, applicants waited an average of 6.1 months, or 184 days, to receive an initial decision. It takes an average of 6.1 more months, or 183 days, to receive a decision on a reconsideration request. After that, the wait time for a hearing depends on which SSA office manages your application. In Hawaii, applicants typically wait 16 months to get a hearing. That means that Hawaiian applicants wait an average of two years and five months from the time they apply until the time they’re approved.
There is only one SSA hearing office in Hawaii. The table below shows the most recent wait time for that office:
How to speed up the process
Because the application process can take years, try to submit your application quickly. Respond as soon as you can if the SSA asks for more information, as that’s the only way to prevent further delays. A lawyer can also keep your application moving forward by following up with the SSA and handling appeal requests.
The wait is long, but the silver lining is that your first SSA check will include months or years of back pay benefits that cover the payments you would’ve received while you were waiting.
For 2023, the maximum SSDI payment possible is $3,627 per month. That said, Hawaiian residents receive an average payment of $1,399.88 per month.
Neither where you live nor your specific medical conditions have any effect on your SSDI check amount. The biggest determining factors are your income history and how much you’ve paid into Social Security.
To find out exactly how much your benefits will be:
In Hawaii, the average monthly SSI payment is $654.14, but the maximum monthly amount for SSI is $914.
Your benefit amount is largely based on your current monthly income. The SSA will calculate the money you receive each month and subtract that from the monthly maximum. If you receive no other money each month, your SSI benefit amount would be $914.
Applying for SSI and SSDI is time-consuming and intensive. A disability lawyer can communicate with the SSA, manage your appeals, and make your case to a judge, all of which can take the stress out of the process so you can focus on your health. These are just a few reasons why applicants who work with a lawyer have higher odds of approval.
If you do look for a Hawaii disability lawyer, consider these factors:
Reviews: A lawyer may be a good fit if they have a lot of positive feedback from their customers. A couple of bad reviews isn’t necessarily a red flag, but look for patterns in bad customer experiences. Every lawyer loses cases sometimes but you should avoid anyone who is consistently rude or uncommunicative.
Primary area of practice: If a lawyer specializes in disability benefits, they likely have the skills to win your case. This is a unique legal area, and it can be difficult to navigate for lawyers who focus on other types of law.
Location (to an extent): There’s only one hearing office in Hawaii. While a lawyer local to the hearing office may know the judges, a remote lawyer who can consult over the phone can still represent you and help you win benefits. Social Security disability rules are the same in every state and remote (phone) hearings are common.
Communication: Ask about your lawyer’s communication style during your initial consultation. They should be responsive and willing to connect with you and the SSA. The application process is long, and you deserve someone who will stay on top of your case. You won’t need to talk to your lawyer every week, but you should be able to reach them any time you need them.
Finding a qualified lawyer can turn an exhausting application process into a relatively easy one. But it’s hard to know if you’ve found the right person. Atticus has been vetting disability lawyers for years and can match you with someone who’s a fit for your claim. If you want help finding a lawyer, fill out our free disability quiz to get started. The best part is there’s no up-front cost and you only have to pay the lawyer if you actually win benefits.
Ready to get benefits today?
Frequently asked questions about benefits in Hawaii
What qualifies you for disability in Hawaii?
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 Hawaii?
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 Hawaii?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Hawaii. 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: Why It Takes so Long to Get Approved for Disability Benefits
How much does disability pay in Hawaii?
The average SSDI payment in Hawaii is $1,416.96 per month. The average SSI payment is $629.34 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 Hawaii?
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 Hawaii have a state disability program?
Yes, Hawaii is one of the five states with its own state disability program. Hawaiians can apply for temporary disability benefits (TDI) that offer up to 26 weeks of payments. Work injuries aren’t covered, though. If your injury will keep you out of work longer, you can still apply for SSDI and SSI.
At the bottom of many websites, you'll find a small disclaimer: "We are not a law firm and are not qualified to give legal advice." If you see this, run the other way. These people can't help you: they're prohibited by law from giving meaningful advice, recommending specific lawyers, or even telling you whether you need a lawyer at all.
There’s no disclaimer here: Atticus is a law firm, and we are qualified to give legal advice. We can answer your most pressing questions, make clear recommendations, and search far and wide to find the right lawyer for you.
Two important things to note: If we give you legal advice, it will be through a lawyer on our staff communicating with you directly. (Don't make important decisions about your case based solely on this or any other website.) And if we take you on as a client, it will be through a document you sign. (No attorney-client relationship arises from using this site or calling us.)