Missouri Disability Benefits: How to Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved
April 27, 2023 · 8 min read
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In 2022, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provided disability benefits for more than 225,000 Missouri residents. While the application process is long and complex, the hundreds of thousands of Missourians have won benefits are proof that benefits are within reach.
To help you get Social Security disability benefits, this guide will explain what Missourians need to know about qualifying, how to navigate the application process, and how to determine the potential benefits you may receive.
What Missouri disability program should I apply for?
Missouri doesn’t offer its own state disability program. But the good news is that Missourians can apply for benefits through the federal government or purchase coverage from a private insurer. Missouri residents may qualify for any of the following programs:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The SSDI program is available through the federal government. You may be eligible if you’ve worked for years but a medical condition makes it impossible for you to continue. SSDI offers the largest possible payment of any disability program, with your past salary and the amount of taxes you’ve paid determining your monthly payment. People who receive SSDI also receive Medicare health insurance coverage. You’re more likely to qualify if you’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): People with limited income and assets can qualify for SSI through the federal government. You may also be eligible for SSI benefits if you’ve never worked (including children) or you haven’t worked recently enough to qualify for SSDI. SSI comes with Medicaid.
Veterans disability benefits: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers benefits for active-duty or retired veterans who can’t work because of an injury they sustained during their military service. You can receive VA benefits and SSDI or SSI at the same time. Learn more about how Atticus can help you with VA benefits.
Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: Most people have these plans through an employer, but you can also purchase one directly through a private insurer. If you had a policy before you had to stop working, you can file a claim for payments typically worth up to 60% of your former paychecks. Your payments can last months or years depending on your plan. Insurers generally require you to apply for SSDI even if you’re getting payments through a long-term private disability plan.
SSDI or SSI are the most common benefits programs among Missourians with disabilities, which is why this guide will focus on helping you apply for either of those two programs. Reference our breakdown of disability benefit types to learn more about the other programs.
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How to qualify for disability in Missouri
The SSA has strict medical and technical criteria for both of its benefits programs. SSDI and SSI have the same medical requirements, but their technical requirements are slightly different.
Medical qualifications for disability benefits
Your disability or medical condition must make it impossible for you to work. That’s the single most important medical qualification for both SSDI and SSI. To prove that this is true for your condition, you also need confirmation from your doctors that they expect your condition to impact you for at least one more year — if not for the rest of your life. The SSA does have a compassionate allowance list so that people with terminal conditions can more quickly qualify for benefits.
Age does play a factor. People older than 50 qualify more easily for SSDI and SSI because they only have to prove they can’t continue the jobs they already know how to do. Someone under age 50 will have to prove that they can’t do any work, even work they could retrain for.
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 meet SSA work credit requirements, meaning you’ve paid enough taxes into Social Security. You will likely 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.
Conditions that qualify for disability in Missouri
The SSA approves disability applicants with many qualifying conditions. Someone can receive disability benefits as long as their condition keeps them from working and will continue for at least a year.
Recent SSA data shows that Missourians who received disability most commonly have the following conditions:
To apply, start with the main Social Security disability application form. Make sure you answer all questions in full. After you submit that, move on to the work history report and the function report. The work history report details your work experience, while the function report details the impact your condition has on your daily life. The SSA may also request additional forms based on your situation.
It can take one to two hours to complete the initial application, even after you’ve gathered all the required materials. Make sure you have plenty of time to provide thorough, honest responses. Even if you’re working with a lawyer, here’s are some important steps to keep in mind:
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.
Fill out the whole application and all supplemental documents. Double-check that you answered every question and completed every form to avoid processing delays or technical denials.
Keep your answers honest and consistent. The SSA will check to see that your application answers align with your medical documents. Be realistic and honest about the pain levels and symptoms you experience.
Follow up with the SSA after you submit. The SSA receives many submissions. Get in touch to make sure they’ve received and are processing your application.
Respond to any requests from the SSA immediately. Though you’ll have 10 days to send additional information, responding faster can help you avoid processing delays.
Applying in person can be helpful if you choose not to work with a lawyer. You can ask the SSA staff to explain what the application is asking. On the other hand, they can’t give you the personalized legal advice a lawyer can, like how to strengthen your responses or which details to focus on.
Working with a disability lawyer is the best way to get help with your application. They have the expertise and the authority to make your responses stronger, fill out the application for you, and follow up with the SSA. A lawyer can make the process a lot less stressful.
Atticus is a law firm, which means we can provide legal advice on filling out your application and finding the right lawyer for your case. Fill out our free 2-minute disability benefits quiz to get started.
What happens after I apply for disability?
The SSA will review your application to make sure you meet the technical requirements of either SSDI or SSI. They’ll also send your application to your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) office, which will confirm that you meet the medical requirements. DDS may also request a quick consultative exam with an SSA doctor. Then the SSA will decide whether to approve you for benefits.
This process may sound simple enough, but as of the start of 2023, the average time to get a decision is six months.
Your chances of getting approved for benefits
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to get approved for disability. Don’t get discouraged, but understand that most applicants will go through multiple stages of denial and appeal before winning benefits.
Roughly 70% of first-time applicants don’t get approved. Those that get rejected can file for reconsideration. At that stage, the SSA rejects another 90% of applications. You can then appeal the decision to get a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ).
While a hearing may feel intimidating, it actually offers the highest chance of success for your claim. In 2022, more than half of the applicants who appealed their case in front of a judge won benefits. If you work with a lawyer at this stage, you’re also three times more likely to get benefits.
How long does it take to get disability benefits in Missouri?
Factoring in the processing time for multiple rounds of appeal, the average applicant in Missouri waits 26 months — just over two years from the time they apply until the time they’re approved. This is close to the average wait for the country as a whole as of March 2023.
This is what the wait comes down to based on the average time for each stage:
Initial decision: 6.1 months (184 days)
Reconsideration decision: 6.1 months (183 days)
Wait time for a hearing: 14.2 months (plus 1-3 months to get a decision)
That said, wait times do vary from hearing office to hearing office. Below are the average wait times at each of Missouri’s five hearing offices.
Wait time for a hearing
NHC St. Louis
How to speed up the process
There is no way to speed up the process, but you can prevent delays. Submit your application as soon as possible and quickly follow up on any of the SSA’s requests to avoid hold-ups. Your lawyer can help keep the process moving by communicating with the SSA and managing your appeals.
While the wait can feel long, you’ll receive benefits for that time. Your first SSA check will include back pay benefits that cover the months or even years of payments you missed while waiting for a decision.
The maximum possible SSDI payment for 2023 is $3,627 per month. That said, Missourians on disability have an average monthly payment of $1,319.28.
Your income history and how much you’ve paid into Social Security have the biggest impact on your payment amount. Your check won’t change based on where exactly you live or which medical condition you qualify with.
To see exactly how much your benefits will be, use your SSA.gov account:
People who receive SSI benefits can receive a maximum of $914 per month in 2023. However, Missourians have an average monthly payment of $604.44.
Your current monthly income will determine your benefit amount. The SSA will calculate the money you have coming in each month (here’s what counts as income for SSI) and subtract it from the monthly maximum. If you have no other income, your SSA checks would be $914.
How to find a disability lawyer in Missouri
Applying for SSDI and SSI is stressful. But you can take some of that stress out of the process with help from a disability lawyer. A lawyer can stay in touch with the SSA, oversee your appeals, and make your case to a judge. These are just a few reasons why applicants with lawyers are more likely to get approved.
When you search for a Missouri disability lawyer, consider the following factors:
Reviews: You want to see positive reviews but it’s just as important to look for patterns in the negative reviews. If, for example, you see multiple people commenting that the lawyer is hard to get a hold of, that’s a bad sign. Even the best lawyers don’t win every case, but you do want a lawyer who treats you with respect.
Communication: The reality is that you won’t hear from your lawyer every day or even every week, since a lot of the wait comes down to the SSA’s processing times. But you do want a lawyer who is easy to reach and will keep your application moving.
Primary area of practice: Look for a lawyer who specializes in Social Security benefits cases. If they specialize in this unique legal area, it’s a good sign they have the knowledge to help you win your claim.
Location (to an extent): If a lawyer is local to the hearing office, they may know the judges’ tendencies and can more easily navigate your case. But Social Security disability rules are the same in every state, so a remote lawyer who consults over the phone is still a great choice. A helpful remote lawyer is better than an unhelpful local lawyer.
Atticus can help you find a vetted lawyer who will make your case a priority and treat you with the respect you deserve. Start with our free disability benefits quiz to get matched. You’ll still get to choose whether to work with the lawyer we recommend, and you won’t pay anything until after you win benefits.
Ready to get benefits today?
Frequently asked questions about benefits in Missouri
How do I qualify for disability in Missouri?
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 Missouri?
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 Missouri?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Missouri. 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 Missouri?
The average SSDI payment in Missouri is $1,319.28 per month. The average SSI payment is $604.44 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 Missouri?
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 Missouri have a state disability program?
No, Missouri 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 Missouri can apply for federal disability programs — SSDI and SSI. Read more about differences between SSDI and SSI here.
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