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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:
Learn more about SSDI eligibility.
You need to meet income and asset requirements to qualify for SSI:
Learn more about SSI eligibility.
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:
For Missourians with mental health conditions, these are the most common:
For more, start with this guide on how to get disability with a mental health condition.
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.
You can complete the application yourself, or you can consult with a disability lawyer. You can also reference our helpful resources on applying for disability for your child or applying for another loved one.
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:
For more help, start with our step-by-step guide to the SSDI and SSI application.
You can submit your application to the SSA in the following three ways:
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.
Read more about how a lawyer can help your application.
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.
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.
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.
Learn more about the odds of winning your disability appeal.
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:
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
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.
Related article: How to Find a Good Disability Lawyer Near You
Your disability benefits payments will depend based on whether you receive SSDI or SSI, or if you get benefits from both programs at the same time.
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:
Learn more about how SSDI is calculated.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
How long has your condition made it hard to work?
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