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In 2022, over 200,000 Massachusetts residents received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). They’ve all been where you are right now, so consider them proof that you can get through the application process no matter how overwhelming it may seem.
To help you apply and get approved for disability in Massachusetts, this guide will explain who can qualify for benefits, how the application process works, and how much you could earn in monthly benefits.
There are no disability programs specific to Massachusetts, but residents with disabilities can still qualify for benefits through federal and private insurance programs.
The best option for most Massachusetts residents is SSDI or SSI, so the rest of this guide will focus on these two programs.
To qualify for disability, Massachusetts residents have to meet strict medical and technical requirements. The technical criteria vary between SSDI and SSI, but both programs have the same medical requirements.
Medically qualifying for disability is twofold. You have to prove that you have a disability or qualifying medical condition AND that your condition makes it impossible for you to work. The SSA will also need to verify that your condition is expected to last at least one year or the rest of your life.
For severe or terminal conditions, you can qualify for an expedited process. Check the SSA’s compassionate allowance list to see if you can automatically qualify.
Your age is also important. If you’re 50 or older, you can more easily qualify for disability because you only have to prove that you can’t keep doing the types of work you’ve previously done. If you’re under 50 years of age, getting disability is more challenging because you have to prove that your condition makes it impossible for you to do any work, even if you retrain.
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two criteria:
Learn more in our full guide to SSDI eligibility.
To qualify for SSI, you must meet the following:
You can learn more in our breakdown of SSI eligibility rules.
The SSA awards disability benefits for many different conditions. What’s important is that you provide evidence that your condition interferes with your ability to work and that it will continue to for at least a year.
The following are the most common conditions among Massachusetts benefits recipients, according to SSA data:
For those with mental health disorders, the most common are:
See if your condition could qualify in our guide to qualifying disabilities.
To apply for disability, start with the main application form. Then move on to supplemental forms. You’ll most likely need to complete a work history report, which describes your work experience, and a function report, where you explain how your condition impacts your daily life.
You can complete the application on your own, or you can work with a disability lawyer. If you’re helping someone else get benefits, also check our advice on how to apply for disability for a child or another loved one.
Preparing your application takes time. Give yourself plenty of time to answer each question and collect all supporting documents. A lawyer can manage these documents for you, but there are some things you can do on your own.
For more help, here’s our step-by-step guide to starting the disability application.
You can submit your application in one of three ways:
If you choose not to work with a lawyer, consider applying in person at your local SSA office. The SSA staff can answer questions about what the forms are asking for. That said, only a lawyer can give you personalized legal advice, like how to improve your responses and what to avoid saying. A lawyer can also submit the application on your behalf.
Read more about how a lawyer can help your application.
Applying at an SSA office is useful but the only way to get personalized help is by working with a disability lawyer. They’ll help complete and submit your application and then they’ll handle interactions with the SSA. A lawyer can make applying a lot less stressful. Here at Atticus, we provide free legal advice on filling out your application and finding the right lawyer for your case. Get help today by filling out our 2-minute disability benefits quiz.
After you apply, the SSA will review your application to confirm that you meet the technical requirements for SSDI or SSI. Disability Determination Services (DDS) will then confirm your medical eligibility, which may require a consultative exam with an SSA doctor or additional medical information from you. Next, the SSA will make a decision on your application. While this may sound straightforward, it’s important to note that this process takes about six months on average.
Only 30% of applicants get approved on their first application, but your chances of approval improve after appeals. If you do get rejected, the next step is to file for reconsideration. At that stage, 90% of applications are once again rejected by the SSA. Applicants can then appeal again, which provides you with a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). This may feel intimidating, but it can actually be a good thing.
In 2022, more than 50% of applicants who appeared in front of an ALJ won their case. Applicants who work with a lawyer are also three times more likely to get approved for benefits.
Learn more about the odds of winning at the different appeal stages.
In Massachusetts, it takes the SSA more than two years to approve a disability application, on average. How long your wait is probably comes down to how quickly your application moves through the multiple rounds of appeal.
As of 2022, the average wait time to receive an initial decision was 6.1 months (184 days). The average wait time to receive a decision on a reconsideration request is an additional 6.1 months (183 days). After that, the amount of time it takes to get a hearing varies from hearing office to hearing office. Massachusetts residents typically wait about 14 months to get a hearing.
When all is said and done, the average Massachusetts applicant waits two years and three months from the time they apply until the time they’re approved.
The table below shows wait times at the three hearing offices in Massachusetts:
Because the application process can take years, it’s important that you apply as soon as you can. Remember to quickly respond to all SSA requests, since that’s the best way to keep your application on track. A lawyer can also follow up with the SSA and handle any appeals to help avoid any delays.
The good news is that your first SSA check will come with some relief. If you get approved, you can expect back pay benefits for the months or years of payments you missed while waiting for a decision.
Related: How to Find a Good Disability Lawyer Near You
Your monthly payment will vary based on which program you qualify for — SSDI or SSI. Some people may even qualify for both at the same time.
The maximum monthly payment for SSDI is $3,627 in 2023, though the average payment in Massachusetts is less than half that at $1,366.75 per month.
Your specific medical condition won’t impact your benefit amount. The SSA will instead take into account your work and income history to determine your monthly payments.
You can check your exact payment amount on the SSA website:
Further reading: How exactly are my SSDI benefits calculated?
SSI has a maximum monthly payment of $914. That said, disability recipients in Massachusetts received an average payment of $620.78 per month.
Your SSI checks are based on your current monthly income. To calculate your payment amount, the SSA will determine how much other income you earn each month and subtract it from the monthly maximum. If you have no other income, you’ll receive the maximum payment of $914 each month.
Have more questions? Read more about how SSI and SSDI benefits are calculated.
Disability benefits can provide some much-needed relief. But before you can get approved, you have to get through what can be a stressful and lengthy application process. Working with a disability lawyer can make the process easier. They can handle your application through every stage of the process, communicate with the SSA, handle appeals, and argue your case to a judge. For all these reasons and more, working with a lawyer increases your odds of approval.
As you search for a Massachusetts disability lawyer, here are five things to consider:
Here at Atticus, we’ve been researching disability lawyers for years. We can help match you with a trusted lawyer who is a good fit for your case and who will give your case their full attention. To get advice and find the right lawyer for your case today, fill out our disability quiz. Our services are completely free and you never have to pay the lawyer unless they help you win benefits.
What qualifies you for disability in Massachusetts?
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 Massachusetts?
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 Massachusetts?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Massachusetts. Most people who apply are initially rejected, and need to appeal this decision. If you appeal and go to a hearing, the process takes just over two years on average. Read more: How Long It Takes to Get Approved for Disability Benefits
How much does disability pay in Massachusetts?
The average SSDI payment in Massachusetts is $1,366.75 per month. The average SSI payment is $620.78. 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 Massachusetts?
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 Massachusetts have a state disability program?
No, Massachusetts doesn't have its own state disability program. Only five states have a state program (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island). Residents of Massachusetts can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.
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