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How to Apply for Disability Benefits in California

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
January 26, 2024  ·  1 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.

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If you are a California resident with an injury or illness that prevents you from working, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration states that more than 600,000 Californians receive federal benefits. On the state level, California pays about $7 billion in short-term benefits annually.

Read on to learn about the different state and federal programs that offer disability benefits, the eligibility requirements, and the application processes.


5 Types of disability benefits in California

In California, there are different programs offering benefits for individuals with temporary and permanent disabilities: 

  1. State Disability Insurance: California is one of five states with a state disability program. Suppose you are unable to work due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a non-work-related injury or illness. In that case, you can receive partial wage replacement benefits through California’s DI benefits program for a maximum of 52 weeks.
  2. Social Security Disability Insurance: If an illness or injury prevents you from working for more than a year, you may be eligible for SSDI. This federal program offers monthly payments and Medicare coverage.
  3. Supplemental Security Income: SSI is a federal program that provides payments and Medicaid coverage for individuals with long-term disabilities with limited resources and little to no work history. 
  4. Veterans disability benefits: You may qualify for VA disability benefits if you experienced an injury or illness due to active service in the military.
  5. Private insurance: If you or your employer purchased short-term or long-term disability insurance before you became disabled, you may be able to file a claim with a private insurer. Payment amounts and coverage duration vary between policies.

You may qualify for workers' compensation benefits if you have a work-related injury or illness. 

Match with a trusted disability lawyer in California

How to apply for DI benefits in California

To apply for State Disability Insurance benefits in California, follow these steps:

  1. Create a myEDD account. The first step of the claims process is to create an online account with California’s Employment Development Department.  
  2. Complete your claim. File a Claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DE 2501) and complete Part A of the form. Save the receipt to send to your doctor.
  3. Contact your medical practitioner. A licensed physician or medical practitioner must complete the medical portion of your claim to verify your condition. 
  4. Submit your claim before the deadline. You must file no earlier than 9 days before your disability begins and no later than 49 days to qualify. 

You can complete and submit DE 2501 for Disability Insurance online or by mail. If you do not have a California license, a valid Social Security number, or recently changed your name, you should apply for benefits through the mail at the below address.

State of California Employment Development Department P.O. Box 989777 West Sacramento, CA 95798-9777

Should I apply for DI benefits in California?

You should submit a claim for Disability Insurance benefits if you are too sick or injured to continue doing your work. It is essential to know that California disability benefits are limited. You can receive state benefits for a maximum of 52 weeks, and the partial wage replacement is estimated to be 60-70% of the wages you earned 5 to 18 months before your disability began.

Should I apply for Social Security benefits in California?

If you suspect your condition will last longer than one year, you should also apply for Social Security disability benefits. There are two federal disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Getting approved for these programs can take up to two years, but you can receive indefinitely higher monthly payments and healthcare coverage.


California disability approval rate

How to apply for Social Security Disability in California

Social Security offers two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both provide monthly payments and healthcare coverage to individuals unable to work because of a non-work-related injury or illness. There are three ways to apply for these disability programs:

  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

The eligibility requirements for SSDI and SSI differ, but you can apply for both programs with the same application. SSI is a need-based program, and SSDI eligibility depends on your work history. Learn more about the differences between SSDI and SSI here.


SSA offices in California

Alhambra

900 South Garfield Ave  Alhambra, CA 91801

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

Phone Number: (866) 227-6561

Fax Number: (833) 902-2602

Anaheim

900 South 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 St  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 East Imperial Hwy 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:

Types of Disability Benefits in California

By

How Much Are Disability Benefits in California?

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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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