Do you have a health condition that leaves you unable to work? If so, you may qualify for disability benefits. More than 66,000 people in New Mexico already receive disability according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, getting benefits isn’t the most straightforward process. In this guide, you’ll learn who can qualify, how to get through the application process, and everything else you need to know about getting disability benefits in New Mexico.
New Mexico doesn’t have a state disability program. There are ways for people with disabilities to receive help, though, including other state and federal programs. Here are five other programs to look into:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): Americans who can’t work anymore due to an injury or illness may qualify for SSDI. It’s a federal program that pays monthly benefits based on how long you’ve worked and your income history. Someone who has worked and paid taxes for at least five of the past 10 years is likely to qualify. SSDI also includes Medicare coverage.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): If you don’t qualify for SSDI, you may meet the criteria for SSI — another federal program that offers monthly payments and Medicaid coverage. SSI is geared toward low-income individuals who either don’t have a work history or haven’t worked much.
Veterans disability benefits: If you are an active duty service member or a retired veteran with a service-related injury that’s left you unable to work, you are eligible to apply for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Visit the VA’s website to learn more about getting these benefits.
Private disability insurance: Short-term and long-term disability insurance policies are available to purchase through many employers or independently. If you become disabled while you have an active policy, you’re eligible to file a claim with the insurer and receive benefits. Payments are worth a portion — often up to 60% — and last months or even years.
General Assistance (GA): The GA program for disabled adults and unrelated children is an application-based program for children in need and adults who have disabilities but don’t qualify for the benefits programs listed above. Learn more GA here.
We will focus on SSDI and SSI for the remainder of this guide because they are the most common types of disability benefits that New Mexico residents qualify for. Additionally, people who qualify for other programs, like VA benefits or private insurance, may still be eligible for SSDI or SSI.
Related article: A Breakdown of the Types of Disability Benefits
To qualify for SSDI and SSI, you have to meet medical and technical requirements. The technical qualifications for each program are different, but they have the same medical stipulations.
To meet the medical qualifications for disability benefits, you have to prove you are “medically disabled” and are unable to do any work activity because of the condition. Specific records, like lab work, imaging results, treatment plans, doctor’s notes, and other documentation can help you qualify.
Your condition must be expected to last for at least one year. The SSA also has a compassionate allowance list, which includes severe and life-threatening conditions that automatically qualify you for disability.
If you’re under the age of 50, you’ll need to show that your condition makes you unable to do any job. Over the age of 50, the rules get less strict and you only need to prove that you can no longer do the same types of work you’ve previously done. For example, say you’ve been in the construction industry for your entire career but develop a condition that impacts your ability to do physical activity. Someone over 50 just needs to show they can no longer do their usual construction jobs. Someone under 50 needs to prove that they also can’t do any other type of job.
The two criteria for SSDI applicants are:
Learn more about qualifying for SSDI here.
The two criteria for SSI applicants are:
Learn more about SSI eligibility here.
There are hundreds of conditions that qualify for disability. No matter what condition you have, it has to be expected to last for at least one year and prevent you from working during that time.
The most common qualifying disabilities, based on the percentage of New Mexico disability recipients who have that condition, are:
Many mental health conditions qualify for disability, though they have their own requirements. The three most common for New Mexico residents are:
Learn more in our guide to getting disability for mental health.
To apply for Social Security disability benefits, you first need to complete the main disability application. You’ll also need to fill out supplemental forms like a work history report that details your prior work experience and a function report that lists how your health condition impacts your ability to function.
While applying on your own is an option, getting help from a disability lawyer can make life easier. We’ve also compiled information about applying for disability benefits for your child or another loved one.
Giving yourself enough time to complete your disability application is crucial. Because of all the documents you have to gather, the whole process can take quite a long time. A disability lawyer can assist you with this, but there are a few steps you should take.
For more detailed help, here’s our step-by-step guide to the disability application.
There are three ways to file the disability benefits forms:
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.
Filling out an application can be challenging. If you don’t have a lawyer, applying in person is a great option to consider. While the SSA staff can’t give you legal advice or say how good your answers are, they can at least advise you on how to answer the questions correctly.
Read more about how a lawyer can help your application.
We recommend speaking with a disability lawyer to get assistance as you file for disability benefits. They can help you with the entire application process, from filling out the application how the SSA wants, to filing appeals and representing you in a hearing (which most applicants need). Not only will a lawyer take the burden off of your shoulders, but applicants with lawyers are also three times more likely to win benefits.
Atticus provides legal advice for free on everything disability benefits-related. We can also advise you on how to find a lawyer that’s right for your case. Fill out our 2-minute disability quiz to get started.
Once your application is submitted, the SSA reviews your documents to see if you meet technical requirements. The Disability Determination Services (DDS) review your medical records and other documents to see if you meet the medical criteria.
You may have to complete a consultative exam, where an SSA doctor examines your health. The SSA uses these results to inform their final decision about whether or not you qualify. In addition to a physical exam, the SSA might also want to schedule an in-person interview to discuss your application. This isn’t a quick process and getting an initial decision takes about six months on average.
Getting approved for Social Security disability is a long process for most applicants. While some cases are accepted after the initial review, around 70% are rejected. You can file for a reconsideration at this point, but over 90% of these applications are rejected, too. If you’re denied at both stages, next is an appeal for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).
Hearings are the best way to get your case accepted. As of 2022, 54% of people that received a hearing won benefits.
Another way to increase your chances of acceptance is to work with a lawyer. People that took this route were three times more likely to get benefits than those who didn’t.
Learn more about the odds of winning a disability appeal.
It takes the average applicant more than two years to get approved for disability benefits. Many factors contribute to this, but having to go through multiple rounds of appeal is the primary reason.
On average, you can expect to wait up to 6.1 months (187 days) for an initial decision. Reconsideration decisions can add an additional 4.9 months (147 days) to the wait. New Mexico residents can then expect to wait an average of 17 months to get a hearing.
From start to finish, getting approved takes 28 months (two years and four months) the average disability applicant in New Mexico.
Wait time for hearing
While there isn’t much you can do to speed up the decision-making process, quickly responding to requests and submitting necessary documents to the SSA can prevent further delays. Working with a disability lawyer also helps reduce the time you spend navigating the application process. They help you create a strong application from the start and then stay on task throughout.
Although the lengthy application process is sometimes discouraging, the first SSA check always includes back pay, which covers the time you spent waiting for a decision.
Related: How to Find a Good Disability Lawyer Near You
Once you receive a decision, you’ll learn how much money you’ll receive per month in benefits. The amount you get depends on which program you qualify for, your work history, and your income. You can also get SSI and SSDI at the same time in certain cases.
Recent SSA data indicates the average monthly SSDI benefits for residents of New Mexico is $1,280.54. That’s lower than the maximum possible benefit, which is $3,627 in 2023. However, location isn’t considered when the SSA determines your benefits. Income and work history are the only factors that matter.
To determine the amount of your SSDI check, visit your SSA.gov account.
New Mexico citizens receive, on average, $612.86 per month from SSI. The maximum amount you can receive is $914 in 2023. Your SSI check is calculated by subtracting your monthly income from the maximum possible benefit ($914) to calculate the amount you’ll receive. You’ll receive the maximum amount if you don’t have any outside income.
Learn more about how SSI and SSDI benefits are calculated.
Getting a disability lawyer is well worth the time and energy. From day one, they’ll handle all the communication with the SSA, work with you to file appeals, and represent you in a hearing (if necessary). They can even fill out the entire SSI and SSDI application for you. Because they know the ins and outs of getting a case approved, you’re more likely to win benefits with their help.
As you begin your search for a disability lawyer in New Mexico, consider these three things:
Finding the right lawyer for your case is challenging. At Atticus, we simplify the process for you. We can help you find the best lawyer that will treat you well and as a priority. The best part? Our services are free. To get matched with a lawyer today, fill out our disability quiz and we’ll reach out to learn more about your situation.
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