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How Much Are Disability Benefits in California?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
January 29, 2024  ·  3 min read
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According to the Social Security Administration, more than 500,000 Californians receive disability benefits. If you’re a California resident and you’re too sick or injured to work, you may be eligible to receive financial assistance and healthcare coverage.

California is one of five states with a State Disability Insurance program to provide short-term, partial-wage benefits for people with disabilities. For long-term benefits, individuals can also apply for federal benefits through the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

Your benefit payment amount depends on which program you qualify for. In this article, we’ll break down the payment calculations and share the maximum amounts for each program.


How much are disability benefits in California?

The payment amount you can receive for disability benefits in California depends on the program you qualify for. Several factors, like your job history, earnings, and how serious your medical condition is, determine the amount of money you can get. 

The minimum amount you can receive is $50 per week with State Disability Insurance, and the maximum you may qualify for is $3,822 per month with Social Security Disability Income.

California disability pay chart

Benefits Program

Average Payment Amount in CA

Maximum Payment Amount

Duration

State Disability Insurance

60-70% of your wages

$1,620 per week

52 weeks

Supplemental Security Income

$578.62 per month

$943 per month

Indefinite/until retirement age

Social Security Disability Income

$1,524.99 per month

$3,822 per month

Indefinite/until retirement age


How are state disability benefits calculated?

The amount of benefits you can receive through California’s State Disability Insurance program depends on your earnings history and the amount of SDI taxes you’ve paid during a specific period.

Your start claim, or the day your disability began, determines what is called your "base period." The state will look at your base period and the wages subject to SDI tax that were paid 5 to 18 months before your disability began.

The state will use your highest quarterly earnings within the base period to determine your payment amount.

California DI benefits pay chart

Highest Quarterly Earnings

Weekly Benefit Amount

Less than $929

$50

Between $929 and $7,154.32

Approximately 70% of your earnings

More than $7,154.32

Approximately 60% of your earnings

Can you receive state and federal benefits at the same time?

No, it is not likely that you will receive state and federal benefits simultaneously. In California, the State Disability Insurance (DI) program offers benefits for a maximum of 52 weeks.

If you expect your condition to last longer than a year, it’s a good idea to also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to continue receiving benefits.

It can take two years or more to be approved for these federal programs, so it is unlikely that your state and Social Security benefits would overlap. For additional assistance during this waiting period, check out our resources guide.


California disability payment amounts

How is Social Security Disability Insurance calculated in California?

The Social Security Administration uses a formula to determine your monthly benefit payment amount. In short, your SSDI benefits amount is based on the money you paid into Social Security taxes while working.

The SSA will review your work history and average your monthly earnings from the highest-earning years, and adjust for inflation. Next, the SSA uses your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) to calculate your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), which is separated into three “slices.” This is where things get complicated — you can read more about the SSDI calculation here.

The simplest way to verify your technical eligibility and see your estimated payment amount is to create a mySocial Security account on SSA.gov or use our benefits estimator:

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


How is Supplemental Security Income calculated in California?

The Social Security Administration calculates SSI payments on a need basis rather than your earnings history. The SSA will subtract your countable income from a set federal benefit rate, which adjusts annually for inflation. In 2024, the federal benefit rate is $943.

If your countable income is less than the federal benefit rate, you should receive the full amount. If you receive other benefits, like food stamps, the SSA will subtract those benefits from your monthly SSI check. For example, if you receive $291 in food stamps, your SSI amount will be $652 ($943 - $291).  To learn more about countable income and SSI calculations, read an in-depth guide: How Is SSI Calculated?

Match with a trusted disability lawyer in California

How to qualify for disability benefits in California

California’s State Disability Insurance program offers benefits to residents unable to work because of a non-work-related injury or illness. To qualify for DI benefits, you must be unable to work your customary job for at least eight days. During this time, you need to receive medical care or treatment from a licensed physician or accredited religious practitioner.

If you have a medical condition that will prevent you from working for more than a year, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). To qualify, you must meet the work history requirements. If you’ve worked five out of the last ten years, you’ll likely qualify.

If you have limited income and little to no work history, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program is need-based, and there are specific resources and income limits.

Learn more about qualifying for DI, SSDI, and SSI benefits in California.


How much does a disability lawyer cost in California?

There are no upfront costs to working with a disability lawyer. Disability attorneys operate on a contingency basis, so you only pay your lawyer when the SSA approves your disability claim.

You begin with a free consultation, and then you can sign a contingency fee agreement if you choose to work with a lawyer. Once the SSA approved your claim, the lawyer will get  25% of your first benefit payment, capped at $7,200 by law.


SSA offices in California

Alhambra

900 S Garfield Ave. Alhambra, CA 91801

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 227-6561

Fax Number: (833) 902-2602

Anaheim

900 S Harbor Blvd  Anaheim, CA 92805

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 657-3133

Fax Number: (833) 950-2748

Antioch

2508 Verne Roberts Circle Antioch, CA 94509

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 331-2324

Fax Number: (833) 950-3669

Auburn

11855 Edgewood Rd  Auburn, CA 95603

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 931-6087

Fax Number: (833) 571-0640

Bakersfield

2575 Haley Street Bakersfield, CA 93305

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 366-9558

Fax Number: (833) 950-3383

Bakersfield

5300 Office Park Drive Bakersfield, CA 93309

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 476-1489

Fax Number: (833) 940-2147

Berkeley

2045 Allston Way  Berkeley, CA 94704

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 531-4696

Fax Number: (833) 950-2448

Brea

3230 E Imperial Highway Suite 150 1st Floor Brea, CA 92821

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (866) 593-2757

Fax Number: (833) 902-2594

See all California SSA offices


Disability lawyers in California

Here are a few Atticus firms in California:

Potter, Cohen, Samulon & Padilla  3852 E Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, California 91107

Disability Advocates Group 17525 Ventura Blvd., Encino, California 91316

Hadley and Fraulob

2207 J St., Sacramento, California 95816

FAQs about disability in California

How do I qualify for disability in California?

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 California?

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 California?

It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in California. 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 California?

The average SSDI payment in California is $1,395.93 per month. The average SSI payment is $765.06 per month. What you’ll earn is dependent 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 California?

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 California have a state disability program?

Yes, California is one of the five states with its own state disability program. Residents can apply for California Disability Insurance, which offers payments for up to 52 weeks (one year). Work injuries aren’t covered, though. If your injury will keep you out of work longer, you can still apply for SSDI and SSI. Read more about the difference between SSDI and SSI here.


Related resources:

Everything You Should Know About Disability Benefits (SSDI and SSI)

By Sarah Aitchison

An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Applying for Disability Benefits

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

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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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