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How to Qualify for Disability in New York: Eligibility Rules + Application Tips

Written by
Sarah Aitchison
Attorney
January 16, 2024  ·  7 min read
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Over 12 million people in New York state currently receive federal disability benefits (according to SSA data). And in theory, it’s easy to know whether or not you’re eligible: To qualify for disability benefits in New York, you need to be too sick to work. 

In reality, it can be hard to prove your condition is severe enough to meet the requirements. And getting your head around the “technical” eligibility rules — like income limits and work history — can be a struggle. 

We’ll break down how the SSA evaluates your eligibility for disability benefits in New York. Plus, we’ll give insight into the conditions that commonly qualify, the approval rates for applicants in New York, and what you can do to increase your odds of eligibility. 


A note on New York state disability benefits. New York is one of five states with a state-specific disability program. These benefits are fairly straightforward to obtain; you qualify if you’re under the care of a medical professional, your disability was caused by something off-the-job, and your condition prevents you from working for at least 7 consecutive days. You’ll start getting paid after that 7 day waiting period. 

New York disability benefits are very limited: You’ll receive 50% of your former wages, maxed out at $170 per week. They almost always pay out less than federal programs, don’t include healthcare, and only last for 26 weeks. 

If you expect your disability to last for up to a year, we highly recommend also applying for a federal benefit program (SSI or SSDI). State disability benefits might lighten your financial burden while you wait to be approved.

The rest of this guide will explain the qualification process for these federal programs. For more on New York State benefits, head to the New York State workers' compensation board website.  


How to qualify for disability in New York

You’ll qualify for disability (SSDI) in New York if: 

  • You have a medical condition that will prevent you from working for a least a year AND

  • You meet the SSA’s work history requirements. Normally this means working 5 out of the last 10 years AND

  • You’re not working — or you’re working very little. 

What are the work credits needed for SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance is a “forced insurance” program. If you’ve paid taxes, you’ve contributed 2% of every paycheck into this program. The amount you “get” back out when you apply for SSDI depends on how much you’ve paid in, and how long you’ve paid in for. 

The SSA evaluates whether or not you’ve paid into the program sufficiently based on your “work credits.” For most people, this means working five out of the last 10 years — but it may vary based on your age. 

The calculations can be pretty complex (we wrote a complete breakdown here). But you can check your exact number of work credits by making an SSA.gov account. 

For more on qualifying for SSDI, read our complete guide here

You qualify for disability (SSI) in New York if: 

  • You have a medical condition that will prevent you from working for a least a year AND

  • You have very little income and very few assets. Generally, this means you have less than $2,000 in assets if you’re single, and less than $3,000 if you’re married AND

  • You’re not working — or you’re working very little. 

What are the income and asset limits for SSI?

To be eligible for SSI, you need to have less than $2,000 in assets. This includes almost any serious financial asset (ie. money in a checking account, a retirement fund, etc.). Some things do not count as assets — like your home, the land it sits on, and your (first) vehicle

SSI also comes with additional income limits. The maximum monthly SSI check is $943 for individuals. Earning above those limits could mean losing SSI benefits.

In fact, the amount you can expect from your monthly SSI check is equal to $943 minus any other income sources. So if you receive $195 per month in SNAP benefits, and that’s your only other income source, your SSI amount would be $719 ($943 - $195 = $748). 

If you’re married, these limits increase, but your spouse's income and assets are counted as your income and assets. For married couples, the asset limit is $3,000 in 2024. Your maximum monthly check is $1,415. 

For more on applying for SSI, read our complete guide here

It will be hard to prove you qualify for disability benefits in New York if: 

  • You’re working close to the SSA’s limits for “substantial gainful activity (SGA).” To qualify for either SSI or SSDI, you need to make less than $1,550 per month from work (this limit increases to $2,460 if you’re blind). If you have other income streams (other benefit programs, real estate investments, etc.) — it won’t count towards this SGA amount. In practice, if you make close to $1,550 per month from work, it will be harder to get benefits. The SSA will question why you can’t just work a few more hours to support yourself, versus utilizing a benefit program. 

  • You’re not currently getting medical treatment — or you don’t have a recent history of medical treatment. When the SSA evaluates your eligibility for benefits, they look at your medical records for evidence. Having regular care, ideally from a specialist, goes a long way towards “proving” you’re too sick to work. 

Qualifying for disability benefits in New York: Over 50 vs. under 50

Proving you’re too sick to work — and therefore eligible for benefits — looks a bit different depending on your age. 

If you’re under 50 years old, the government will assume you can be trained to work in new fields that might be more accommodating to your condition. That means you’ll have to prove that your condition prevents you from working any job. 

If you’re over 50, the government assumes it’s harder for you to learn a new trade. You’ll only have to prove that you’re unable to work jobs you’ve worked in the past. 

For more on qualifying over age 50, check out our guide here

Which disability program should I apply for in New York? 

You can apply for both SSI and SSDI using the same application — and many people apply for both programs. 

If you’re approved for SSDI, you’ll be granted access to Medicare — but there’s a waiting period before you can enroll. If you’re approved for SSI, you’ll be given access to Medicaid immediately. 

For most applicants, SSDI pays out at a higher amount than SSI. But some people who qualify for SSDI apply for SSI for earlier access to healthcare. 

On rare occasions, some applicants who qualify for SSDI have an estimated benefit amount that’s lower than their SSI payout. They also benefit from applying for both programs. 

For more on which program is right for you, read: SSDI vs SSI: What’s the Difference?

The average and maximum disability payments in New York in 2024.

Conditions that qualify for in disability in New York

Any condition can qualify for Social Security disability as long as it’s sufficiently severe to keep you from working. We’ve helped clients get disability benefits for a wide range of different conditions — from diabetes, to Crohn’s, to depression, to cancer.

The SSA has a long “Listing of Impairments” called the Blue Book, which breaks down many of the conditions that can qualify. It also lists the medical evidence the SSA looks at to determine whether or not your condition is severe enough to be eligible. Many people who apply also struggle with multiple conditions, which together, can make qualifying easier.

What is the easiest condition to get disability in New York?

In New York, the most common conditions that qualify for benefits are:

Condition type

Percent of disability recipients

Diseases of the musculo-skeletal system 

35.3%

Mental disorders

32.6%

Diseases of the nervous system

9.2%

Diseases of the circulatory system

5.9%

Neoplasms

3.2%

Injuries

3.1%

Diseases of the respiratory system

2.0%

Endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases

1.6%

Diseases of the genito-urinary system

1.5%

Infectious and parasitic diseases

1.4%

Diseases of the digestive system

1.1%

Congenital abnormalities

0.5%

Disease of the blood and blood-forming organs

0.3%

Skin and subcutaneous tissue

0.2%

Other

0.2%

For a more comprehensive list of conditions that qualify, we wrote a full guide on how the SSA evaluates each type of medical condition, including the evidence the SSA uses to evaluate the severity of your condition.

What conditions automatically qualify for benefits in New York?

There are two categories of conditions that medically qualify you automatically for disability benefits. These are compassionate allowance cases and TERI (terminal illness) cases. (You still always need to meet the technical requirements — work and tax history for SSDI and income limits for SSI.)

Compassionate allowance conditions are those that are deemed sufficiently disabling by diagnosis alone. There are many disorders on this list — like Coffin-Lowry syndrome, early-onset Alzheimer's, and several types of cancer.

We’ve listed all the compassionate allowance conditions for 2023 here.

TERI conditions sometimes overlap with these. If you or a third party assert (with medical evidence) that your illness is terminal, it can be flagged as a TERI case and fast-tracked.

Is it hard to get disability in New York?

Compared to other states, it’s moderately difficult to get disability benefits in New York. In New York, the allowance rate for initial applications is 40%. That means 40% of individuals are medically approved when they apply — though they still may be rejected for technical reasons. 27 states have higher approval rates at the application stage.

If your application is initially rejected you can still file for reconsideration. At this stage, approvals are rare — only 17% of reconsiderations are approved. After this rejection, you can request a hearing. You have the greatest odds of approval at the hearing stage. In New York, 58% of people are approved during a disability hearing. 

Some New York disability hearing offices have the highest approval rates in the country: Rochester has a 76% approval rate, Varick has a 70% approval rate, and Long Island has a 66% approval rate. 

Your odds of approval go up significantly with a lawyer. Government studies show you’re three times as likely to win benefits with a lawyer representing you. 

Do I need a disability lawyer in New York?

Your odds of winning disability benefits increase threefold with a lawyer. They can help you navigate every stage of the application, appeal, and hearing process. 

They’ll be able to effectively evaluate whether or not you’ll qualify for benefits (and which disability program you best qualify for). And they’ll know how to best prove to the government, or a judge, that you’re medically unable to work.

We recommend a lawyer to almost everyone — and luckily, just about everyone can afford legal help. Disability lawyers’ fees are capped by law. You pay nothing until you win benefits, and if you aren’t approved – you aren’t charged a cent. 

If a lawyer is successful in winning you disability benefits, they'll get 25% of your first check. The SSA will pay them this rate directly, so you should never see a bill. 

If you’re ready to get matched with an attorney you can trust — or just need some free legal advice — the team at Atticus is ready to help. Take our quick intake quiz to get started.

SSA offices in New York 

Albany

11 A Clinton Ave Rm 430 Federal Bldg

Albany, NY 12207

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

Phone Number: (866) 253-9183

Fax Number: (833) 950-3603

Batavia

571 East Main St 

Batavia, NY 14020

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

Phone Number: (866) 931-7103

Fax Number: (833) 950-2368

Binghamton

2 Court St Ste 300

Binghamton, NY 13901

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

Phone Number: (866) 964-3971

Fax Number: (833) 950-3607

Bronx

1029 E 163rd St 3rd Fl

Bronx, NY 10459

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

Phone Number: (866) 220-7889

Fax Number: (833) 950-2682

Brooklyn

1540 Fulton St 

Brooklyn, NY 11216

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

Phone Number: (866) 592-4845

Fax Number: (833) 950-2684

Buffalo

478 Main St Ste 200

Buffalo, NY 14202

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

Phone Number: (855) 881-0213

Fax Number: (833) 950-3605

Corning

200 Nasser Civic Ctr 

Corning, NY 14830

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

Phone Number: (866) 591-3665

Fax Number: (833) 950-2362

Dunkirk

437 Main St Ste 2

Dunkirk, NY 14048

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

Phone Number: (888) 862-2139

Fax Number: (833) 950-3277

See all SSA offices

A few Atticus disability firms in New York

Christopher Grover of Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys

424 Main St., Buffalo, New York 14202

Law Offices of David Kuznicki

65 Broadway, Suite 1704, New York, New York 10006

Aimee Buckley of Morrin and Sands

422 Bedford Ave., Bellmore, New York 11710

Frequently asked questions

Qualifying in NY

What qualifies you for disability in NY?

To qualify for state disability benefits in NY, you'll need to fill out and submit Form DB-450 with input from your employer and a medical professional. To qualify for federal disability benefits in NY, you'll need to have a medical condition severe enough to prevent you from working for at least a year.

What is the easiest condition to get disability?

The easiest conditions to get disability with are conditions on the SSA's compassionate allowance or TERI (terminal illness) list. These conditions are considered to be so severe that they automatically meet the medical requirements. Stage 4 cancers, Coffin-Lowry, AIDS, early-onset Alzheimer's, and ALS are examples of conditions on this list. View the full list here.

Is anxiety a disability in NY?

You can generally get disability for anxiety if your condition leaves you completely unable to work or unable to go through daily life on your own. However, the SSA has very strict criteria for who can get benefits because of anxiety or other mental health conditions.

Do I need a disability lawyer in New York?

Your odds of winning disability benefits increase threefold with a lawyer. They can help you navigate every stage of the application, appeal, and hearing process. We recommend a lawyer to almost everyone — and luckily, just about everyone can afford legal help. Disability lawyers’ fees are capped by law. You pay nothing until you win benefits, and if you aren’t approved – you aren’t charged a cent. 

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Sarah Aitchison

Attorney

Sarah is an attorney at Atticus Law, P.C. Prior to joining Atticus, she was a civil public defender in Brooklyn, NY and a business reporter in Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law.
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