Maine Disability Benefits: Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved
June 3, 2023 · 9 min read
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Nearly 60,000 Maine residents received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in 2022. Each of them successfully completed the application and won benefits, even though the application process is lengthy and difficult. To help you win benefits, this guide will explain who’s eligible for disability, how the application process works, and the potential amount of your monthly payments.
What Maine disability program should I apply for?
There is no state disability program in Maine. Instead, Mainers can qualify for benefits through the federal government or purchase a policy from a private insurance company. If you live in Maine, you may be eligible for any or all of the following programs:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): People who’ve worked for 10+ years but can’t continue because of a health condition can apply for SSDI through the federal government. This disability program generally has the largest payments of any program because your benefit amount is based on the income you’ve earned and the taxes you’ve paid. SSDI also offers health insurance through Medicare.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): People who’ve never worked or haven’t worked enough to qualify for SSDI — including children and older Americans — can qualify for the federal government’s SSI program. You’ll only meet the program’s requirements if you have limited income and assets. You’ll also get health coverage through Medicaid.
Veterans disability benefits: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers a disability program for active-duty and retired veterans who were injured in the line of duty and can’t work because of it. You can receive SSDI and SSI benefits at the same time as VA benefits. Learn more about how Atticus can help with VA benefits.
Long-term and short-term private disability insurance: Many insurers offer private disability plans, as do some employers. If you purchased a policy before you stopped working, you could qualify for benefits. Your payments may be worth up to 60% of your former paychecks and typically last months or years. Even if you qualify for long-term benefits, insurance companies often require you to apply for SSDI.
Most Mainers with disabilities will qualify for either SSDI or SSI, so this guide will explain how to apply for both programs. Reference our guide to the types of disability benefits to learn more about the other programs.
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How to qualify for disability in Maine
To qualify for disability, you have to prove that you meet two sets of criteria: medical and technical. The SSA provides the same medical requirements for SSDI and SSI, but its technical requirements differ.
Medical qualifications for disability benefits
The medical qualification for SSDI and SSI has two parts: First, you must have a disability or medical condition that leaves you unable to work. Second, the condition must be expected to persist for at least one year.
You and your doctors will need to provide medical documentation to the SSA confirming your diagnosis and how it affects your ability to work.
Your age is also a determining factor in the approval process. The SSA is more lenient if you’re over age 50. You’ll only need to verify that you can’t continue working the jobs you’ve already done. If you’re under age 50, the SSA will need to see evidence that your condition prevents you from doing any kind of work — even if you retrain.
Technical SSDI qualifications
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:
You’re 66 years old or younger (below your full retirement age).
You have enough work credits through the SSA. You earn credits by paying taxes into Social Security and you’re more likely to qualify if you’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years. See how many work credits you have with a free SSA.gov account.
The SSA has a long list of health conditions that qualify for disability. But whether your condition appears on that list or not, you can receive benefits as long as your condition makes it impossible for you to work and will continue for at least a year.
According to recent data from the SSA, these are the most common conditions among Mainers who receive disability benefits:
To apply, first fill out the SSI and SSDI application form. Once that’s complete, you can move on to supplemental forms, like the work history report to explain your work experience and the function report to detail how your condition impacts your daily activities. The SSA may request additional forms or more medical information as they process your application.
It’s important that you set aside plenty of time. The initial application may take one to two hours or more, plus however much time you need to gather all the required materials. A lawyer can complete much of the application for you, but there are some key steps for you to understand:
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. More medical documentation is always better.
Make sure to fill out the whole application. Make sure you’ve answered every question on every form. This is a key way to avoid processing delays.
Answer questions honestly and consistently. Your application responses and the information in your medical and supplemental forms must match. The SSA will look for inconsistencies. Also be realistic and honest about the limitations of your condition, like your daily pain levels and symptoms.
Follow up with the SSA right after you submit. Contact someone at the SSA to verify that they’ve received and are processing your application. A lawyer can also help with this.
Respond to SSA requests immediately. You’ll have up to 10 days to respond, but acting faster will help you avoid further delay.
Applying online may seem easiest, but applying in person can be a better option if you choose not to work with a lawyer. The SSA employees can help you understand what the application questions are asking and answer questions you have. But that advice will only go so far. You can only get personalized advice from a lawyer. That’s because telling you how to strengthen your responses or which information to include and exclude qualifies as legal advice.
If you want help with your application, working with a lawyer is your best option. Applicants who work with a lawyer have higher odds of approval because a lawyer can help strengthen the answers you give on your application, fill out the application for you, follow up with the SSA, and represent you during appeal hearings (which most applicants go through).
A good lawyer also won’t charge anything upfront and you won’t have to pay anything until after you win benefits. 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, fill out our free 2-minute disability benefits quiz.
What happens after I apply for disability?
After you apply, your application will go through multiple rounds of review. The SSA will confirm that you meet the technical requirements for SSDI or SSI. Your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) will also verify that you’re medically eligible. As part of the process, you may need to complete a phone interview with the SSA or complete a quick consultative exam with a DDS doctor.
This may sound straightforward, but there are long processing periods at each stage. Applicants wait an average of six months to get a decision on their application as of early 2023.
Your chances of getting approved for benefits
Getting approved for benefits isn’t easy, so be ready to navigate a few stages of denial and appeal before you get the SSA’s final decision on your application. However, your chances of approval actually increase after multiple rounds of appeal.
Initially, roughly 70% of applicants get rejected. Those that are rejected can file for reconsideration, but the SSA also rejects 90% of those. If that happens, you can appeal for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).
The idea of a hearing is intimidating, but appearing in front of a judge can be good for your case. In 2022, more than half of the applicants who appealed their case in front of a judge won their benefits. At the hearing stage, applicants with lawyers are also three times more likely to win their claim.
How long does it take to get disability benefits in Maine?
Mainers waited an average of 23 months — just shy of two years – from the time they applied until the time they were approved, as of March 2023. This is a few months faster than the average wait time in the United States.
The long wait comes down to the multiple rounds of appeal most applicants go through. The average wait time for each round in Maine is:
Initial decision: 6.1 months (184 days)
Reconsideration decision: 6.1 months (183 days)
Wait time for a hearing: 11 months (plus 1-3 months to get a decision)
That said, wait times do vary by hearing office. There is only one hearing office in Maine, and its wait time is below:
Wait time for a hearing
How to speed up the process
Unfortunately, you can’t speed up the process. But there are a few ways to avoid delays. Submit your application as soon as you can, then contact the SSA right away. Also respond quickly to any of the SSA’s requests to help sidestep processing delays. If you work with a lawyer, they can also move your application along by following up with the SSA and filing your appeals.
On the bright side, you will be compensated for the wait. Your first disability check will include back pay, which covers the amount of benefits you would’ve received if you’d been approved earlier instead of having to appeal and wait.
Where you live and your specific medical condition will have no impact on your benefit amount. Instead, the SSA will consider your personal income throughout your areer and how much you’ve paid into the Social Security program.
To find out exactly how much your benefits will be, use your SSA.gov account:
Mainers who receive disability have an average monthly payment of $598.47, which is a little more than half of SSI’s 2024 monthly maximum of $943.
To determine your SSI benefit amount, the SSA will look at your current monthly income. Any money coming in each month is subtracted from the maximum SSI payment. If you have no other income, you will receive SSI checks for $943.
Applying for SSDI or SSI is long and complicated, but working with a lawyer can make the process much more transparent. Your lawyer can oversee your appeals, communicate with the SSA, and represent you during court hearings. This not only makes the application process easier, but it’s also the reason why applicants with lawyers are more likely to get approved.
As you search for a disability lawyer in Maine, consider the following factors:
Reviews: You do want to see positive reviews, but don’t immediately dismiss a lawyer with some bad reviews. Instead, look for patterns of similar, negative feedback — like multiple people saying the lawyer was disrespectful — as that suggests the lawyer may not provide the quality of service you need. A lawyer won’t win every case, but they should be polite and communicative with every client.
Communication: While you won’t hear from your lawyer every week or every month while your application is in review, your lawyer should be responsive to you as your case progresses or if you have questions.
Primary area of practice: There are a lot of experienced lawyers, but Social Security disability law is unique. Look for a lawyer or firm that specializes in disability benefits.
Location (to an extent): Social Security disability law is the same in every state. A local lawyer may know the judges’ preferences, but a remote lawyer who consults over the phone can be equally helpful. A great remote lawyer is better than an unhelpful local lawyer.
Atticus can help you find an experienced lawyer who will make your case a priority and treat you with respect. Get started 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.
Ready to get benefits today?
Frequently asked questions about benefits in Maine
How do I qualify for disability in Maine?
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 Maine?
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 Maine?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Maine. 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 Maine?
The average SSDI payment in Maine is $1,274.98 per month. The average SSI payment is $598.47 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 Maine?
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 Maine have a state disability program?
No, Maine 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 Maine 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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