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Kentucky Disability Benefits: Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
May 19, 2023  ·  8 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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In 2022, roughly 200,000 Kentucky residents received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). While the application process can be stressful, it is possible to successfully complete the application and win benefits.

To help you, this guide will explain who’s eligible for benefits, how the application process works, and the potential amount of your monthly benefits.

We've helped 2,954 people in Kentucky apply for benefits.

What Kentucky disability program should I apply for?

Kentucky doesn’t administer its own disability program. However, Kentuckians are eligible for benefits through the federal government or through private insurance policies. Kentucky residents may qualify for any (or all) of the following programs:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The federal government provides SSDI to people who’ve worked for a long time but can’t continue because of a health condition. If you’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years, you’re likely to meet SSDI’s eligibility requirements. The SSA awards a benefit (payment) amount based on the income you’ve earned and the taxes you’ve paid. These are generally the largest payments of any disability program. SSDI also comes with Medicare for health insurance.

  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Children, older Americans, and others who’ve never worked or haven’t worked recently enough to qualify for SSDI can qualify for SSI through the federal government. You can only meet the program’s qualifications if you have limited income and assets. You’ll also get Medicaid coverage.

  3. Veterans disability benefits: Active-duty and retired veterans who sustained an injury during their military service and can’t work as a result can qualify for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You can still receive SSDI and SSI benefits while receiving VA benefits. Learn more about how Atticus can help you with VA benefits.

  4. Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: Some employers offer private disability plans, but you can also purchase one from a private insurer. You can file a claim if you had your policy before you stopped working. Payments may be up to 60% of your former paychecks and can last months or years. If you receive long-term benefits, many insurance companies require you to apply for SSDI.

Most Kentuckians with disabilities will qualify for SSDI or SSI, so this guide will help you apply for these two programs. Learn more about the other programs in our guide to the types of disability benefits.

Skip the reading. See which benefits you qualify for in 2 minutes or less.

How to qualify for disability in Kentucky

In order to qualify for disability, you have to prove that you meet both the technical and medical criteria the SSA provides. The technical requirements for SSDI and SSI are slightly different, but the medical requirements are the same.

Medical qualifications for disability benefits

The medical qualification for SSDI and SSI is two-fold: you must have a disability or medical condition that will persist for at least the next year, and that condition must make it impossible for you to work.

You’ll need medical documentation from your doctors verifying your diagnosis and that they expect your condition will impact your ability to work. Applicants with terminal conditions can reference the SSA’s compassionate allowance list to more quickly qualify for benefits.

The SSA also considers your age during the application progress. If you’re over age 50, you’ll more easily qualify for disability because you only have to prove it’s impossible for you to continue the jobs you’ve already been doing. If you’re under age 50, you have to prove that, because of your condition, you’re unable to do any kind of work — even if you retrain.

Technical SSDI qualifications

To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:

  1. You’re 66 years old or younger (below your full retirement age).

  2. You have enough SSA work credits, meaning 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. To see how many work credits you have, create a free account on SSA.gov.

Learn more about SSDI eligibility.

Technical SSI qualifications

To qualify for SSI, you must meet two income and asset limits:

  1. Have little to no income, less than about $900 per month.

  2. Have few personal assets, including retirement or personal savings of less than $2,000 for single individuals and $3,000 for married individuals.

Learn more about eligibility for SSI.

Conditions that qualify for disability in Kentucky

There are many different qualifying health conditions for which the SSA awards disability. But no matter the condition, you can receive disability benefits as long as your condition keeps you from working and will do so for a year or more.

The SSA recently released data that shows the most common conditions among disability benefits recipients in Kentucky:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders: 35.6%

  • Mental health conditions: 31.6%

  • Neurological (nervous system) disorders: 8.4%

  • Cardiovascular (circulatory system) disorders: 6.9%

  • Respiratory conditions: 3.5%

  • Injuries: 3.3%

  • Cancers (neoplasms): 2.4%

  • Endocrine disorders: 2.3%

  • Digestive system disorders: 1.5%

  • Genitourinary disorders (kidney disease): 1.1%

  • Infectious and parasitic diseases: 0.6%

  • Congenital anomalies (birth defects): 0.4%

  • Other qualifying conditions: 0.3%

  • Hematological (blood) disorders: 0.2%

  • Skin conditions: 0.2%

For Kentuckians on disability with mental health conditions, these are the most common:

  • Depression, bipolar disorder, and related disorders: 24,306 people

  • Intellectual disorders: 17,573 people

  • Neurocognitive disorders: 7,401 people

For more help, read our article on getting disability for mental illness.

How to apply for disability in Kentucky

To apply for disability, start with the main SSI and SSDI application form. Then, you’ll explain your work experience in a work history report and how your condition impacts your daily life in a function report. You may need to fill out other forms or provide more medical information as the SSA processes your application.

You can either complete the application yourself or work with a disability lawyer. If you’re helping someone else apply, you can reference our guides to applying for disability on behalf of a child or applying for a loved one.

How should I prepare my application?

Set aside plenty of time to prepare your application. It may take one to two hours to complete the application, and that doesn’t consider the time it takes to gather all the required materials. Your lawyer can handle much of the application process, but there are some important steps for you to be aware of:

  • Prepare all your personal records. This includes medical records, treatment forms, bank account information, work and income history, and contact information for your healthcare providers. When it comes to medical documentation, more is always better.

  • Make sure to fill out the whole application. Double-check that you’ve answered every question on every form. This can help you avoid processing delays.

  • Answer questions honestly and consistently. The SSA will check whether your application responses match the information in your medical and supplemental forms. Be realistic and honest about your condition, including limitations, pain levels, and symptoms.

  • Follow up with the SSA right after you submit. Get in touch with someone at the SSA to confirm that they’ve received and are working through your application. If you have a lawyer, they can do this for you.

  • Respond to SSA requests immediately. This helps prevent processing delays, even though you’ll have up to 10 days to respond.

Get more help in this guide to starting the disability application.

3 ways to submit your application

You have three options for submitting your application:

  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.

Applying online may seem fast and easy, but applying in person can actually be the more helpful option since you can ask the SSA employees to clarify what the application questions are asking. But there are limitations. Only a lawyer can give you personalized legal advice, like how to make your responses stronger or which details to include or exclude.

Further reading: What Does a Disability Lawyer Actually Do?

Getting help with the application

Working with a lawyer is one of the best ways to get help with the application. Applicants with lawyers have higher odds of approval because they can make your responses stronger, complete the application for you, and communicate with the SSA, and represent you during appeals.

We at Atticus are a law firm, which means we can provide advice on filling out your application and finding the right lawyer for your case. To get help today, take our free 2-minute disability benefits quiz.

What happens after I apply for disability?

Once you apply, the SSA begins its review process. The SSA will verify whether you meet the technical requirements for SSDI, SSI, or both. Then Disability Determination Services (DDS) will confirm that you’re medically eligible. The SSA may ask you to complete a phone interview, and DDS may require a quick consultative exam with one of their doctors.

Keep in mind that there are processing periods between each step. In 2023, the average wait time to get a decision on your application was about six months.

Your chances of getting approved for benefits

Your chances of getting approved for benefits aren’t always high. Don’t let that stop you from applying, but do expect a few stages of denial and appeal before you get a final decision on your application.

Roughly 70% of applicants get rejected the first time they apply. They can then file for reconsideration, but the SSA rejects another 90% of applicants at this stage. If you’re one of them, you can appeal and request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ).

While you might not like the idea of a hearing, appearing in front of a judge can actually improve your chances of getting approved. More than half of the applicants who appealed their case in front of a judge in 2022 won their claim. Applicants with lawyers at the hearing stage are also three times more likely to win benefits.

Learn more about the chances of winning your disability appeal.

How long does it take to get disability benefits in Kentucky?

In 2023, the average wait time for Kentuckians was 24 months — right around two years — from the time they applied until the time they were approved. This is a few months faster than the average wait in the United States.

Most applicants go through multiple rounds of appeal, which contributes to the long wait. The average wait times for each stage in Kentucky are:

  • Initial decision: 6.1 months (184 days)

  • Reconsideration decision: 6.1 months (183 days)

  • Wait time for a hearing: 11.5 months (plus 1-3 months to get a decision)

That said, wait times do vary by hearing office, and your actual wait time can vary greatly depending on which office handles your claim. Here is the wait time at three of Kentucky’s hearing offices:

Hearing office

Wait time for a hearing


11 months


12 months


15 months


8 months

How to speed up the process

There is no way to speed up the process unfortunately. But you can take some steps to prevent delays. Submit your application as soon as you’re ready, then follow up with the SSA immediately. You can also avoid processing delays by responding quickly to any requests from the SSA. Your lawyer can communicate with the SSA and file your appeals, which can help the process go more smoothly.

The good news? You will be compensated for the wait in the form of disability back pay benefits, which cover the payments you would’ve received if you’d been approved earlier instead of having to appeal and wait.

Related article: How to Find a Good Disability Lawyer Near You

How much are disability benefits in Kentucky?

There is no one set benefit amount. Disability benefits vary based on which program you qualify for (SSDI or SSI) and then your work or income history. It is also possible to get benefits from SSDI and SSI at the same time.

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

monthly check


Average SSDI payment in Kentucky

SSDI’s maximum monthly payment for 2024 is $3,822. But the average monthly payment for Kentucky SSDI recipients is $1,322.16.

Neither where you live nor your specific medical condition will impact your benefit amount. Instead, when determining your check size, the SSA evaluates your personal income and how much you’ve paid into Social Security.

To find out exactly how much your benefits will be, use your SSA.gov account:

  • Visit the SSA’s mySocialSecurity page.

  • Log in or create an account with your Social Security number (SSN).

  • Scroll down to the section titled “More Benefits.”

For a more in-depth look, here’s how SSDI payments are calculated.

Average SSI payment in Kentucky

The maximum monthly payment for SSI in 2024 is $943, but Kentucky residents receive an average of $616.98 per month.

The SSA looks at your current monthly income to determine your SSI benefit amount. Any money you earn each month is subtracted from the maximum SSI payment. That means your SSI checks will be worth $943 if you have no other income. Learn more about what counts as income for SSI.

How to find a disability lawyer in Kentucky

Applying for SSDI and SSI is taxing, but working with a qualified disability lawyer can take much of the work and stress off your plate. Your lawyer can oversee your appeals, follow up with the SSA, and appear for court hearings. This not only makes the application process less stressful, but people with lawyers have higher chances of getting approved.

As you search for a Kentucky disability lawyer, consider the following:

  • Reviews: Positive reviews are great but instead of dismissing a lawyer with negative reviews,look specifically for patterns. If you see a lot of similar, negative feedback — like multiple people saying the lawyer was rude or uncommunicative — that’s an indication the lawyer might not provide the service you need. A lawyer can’t win every case, but they should always be respectful and responsive.

  • Communication: You may not hear from your lawyer every week or every month while the SSA reviews your application. But your lawyer should follow up quickly with you and the SSA as your claim moves through the process.

  • Primary area of practice: There are a lot of talented lawyers, but not all of them specialize in disability benefits. Social Security disability law is unique, so look for someone with this expertise.

  • Location (to an extent): The Social Security disability rules are the same in every state. A lawyer local to your hearing office may know the judges’ preferences, but a remote lawyer who consults over the phone can be equally effective. A good remote lawyer is better than a bad local lawyer.

Atticus can help you find an experienced lawyer who will put your case first and treat you with kindness. Start with our free disability benefits questionnaire and we’ll find you a qualified match. You’ll still get to choose whether to work with our lawyers, and you won’t pay anything until after you win benefits.

Find a great disability lawyer in Kentucky.

Frequently asked questions about benefits in Kentucky

How do I qualify for disability in Kentucky?

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 Kentucky?

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 Kentucky?

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

The average SSDI payment in Kentucky is $1,322.16 per month. The average SSI payment is $616.98 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 Kentucky?

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 Kentucky have a state disability program?

No, Kentucky doesn’t have a state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have a state program. Residents of Kentucky can apply for the federal disability programs of SSDI and SSI. Read more about the differences between SSDI and SSI here.

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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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