New York State Disability Benefits: Qualify, Apply, Get Approved
March 31, 2023 · 10 min read
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In the state of New York, over 530,000 people receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). That’s over half a million people who’ve completed the disability application process — proof that you can, too.
This guide will explain how to apply for disability benefits in New York, including what you need to know about eligibility, the application process, and the size of your potential benefit checks.
What New York disability program should I apply for?
1. New York Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI): New York offers SDI for state residents who have an illness or injury that will temporarily leave them unable to work. To claim benefits, the injury or illness must be non-work-related (if it’s work-related, apply for New York workers’ compensation instead).
There are also specific work history criteria. To be eligible for SDI, you must have worked at least 50% of full-time and earned at least $15,000 during your one-year base period. You can apply seven days after your injury or illness began. If approved, you can earn up to 50% of the average amount you earned each week for the last eight weeks you worked, though the maximum SDI payment is $170 per week.
2. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The federal government manages SSDI, which Americans can receive if they’ve worked for years before but have a medical condition that interferes with their ability to keep working. People who’ve worked and paid taxes for at least five of the last 10 years are more likely to qualify. Of all disability programs, SSDI has the largest payment amounts, but how much you receive depends on your historical income and the amount of taxes you’ve paid. SSDI also includes Medicare.
3. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): The federal government offers benefits for people with limited income and assets through SSI. The program is also available for someone who hasn't worked much or at all, including children with disabilities. SSI benefits also come with health insurance through Medicaid.
4. Veterans disability benefits: Active and retired veterans who were injured during their military service can qualify for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if they can’t work because of their injury. You can also get VA benefits at the same time as SSDI or SSI. Learn more about how to apply for VA benefits.
5. Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: Employers and private insurance companies both offer private disability policies. If you purchased a plan before your medical condition develops, you can file a claim for benefits. Most policies cover up to 60% of your former paychecks and offer coverage for months or years. Check your individual plan details for specifics. If you get long-term disability insurance, your insurer will most likely require you to apply for SSDI anyway.
The rest of this guide will focus on SSDI and SSI since they’re the programs that most New Yorkers with disabilities will qualify for. If you have additional questions about the other types, here’s more on the types of disability benefits.
Skip the reading. See which benefits you qualify for in 2-minutes or less.
How to qualify for disability in New York
In New York, you can’t qualify for disability unless you have proof that you meet all of the medical and technical requirements. SSDI and SSI share medical criteria, but their technical criteria vary.
Medical qualifications for disability benefits
To medically qualify for benefits, you have to prove that your disability or medical condition makes it impossible for you to continue working. Your doctor will need to provide documentation showing that they expect your condition to last for one year or longer.
After age 50, qualifying for disability is easier because you only have to prove that your condition keeps you from continuing the kinds of work you already do. If you’re under the age of 50, it will be more difficult to qualify because you have to show the SSA that you can’t do any job, even if you retrain.
Technical SSDI qualifications
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:
You’re 66 years old or younger.
You’ve earned the minimum number of work credits, which means you’ve paid enough taxes into Social Security. You’re likely to qualify if you’ve worked for years, including at least five of the last 10 years. Check how many credits you have by creating a free SSA.gov account.
Applying on your own is always an option, but you can also make the process easier by working with a disability lawyer. The application is long and complex but a lawyer knows the ins and outs of disability law, so they can guide you through the whole process.
The application is long, so make sure you set aside plenty of time to complete the application in full. A lawyer can help you manage all of the forms, but you can contribute in the following ways:
Gather your personal records. The SSA will need medical records, treatment forms, bank account information, work history, and contact information for all relevant healthcare providers. If you’re applying for SSI, have records of all your income sources.
Submit the application and all supplemental documents. Always answer every question. The SSA will also look for inconsistencies across your responses, so answer consistently across all the forms. Being realistic and honest about your pain levels and symptoms will help you avoid any contradictions.
Follow up with the SSA right after you submit. The SSA receives a high number of submissions, so it can help if you or your lawyer follow up to ensure they’ve received and are working on your application.
Respond to any SSA requests immediately. Though you’ll have 10 days to respond to any SSA requests, try to respond faster so you avoid additional processing delays.
Consider applying in person if you choose not to work with a lawyer. If you’re in the office, the SSA workers will be able to explain what the application questions mean. There are limitations to that, though. Unlike a lawyer, they can’t give you personalized advice to help make your responses stronger. A lawyer can also submit the application for you.
Getting help with the application can be challenging because any advice on how to best answer questions or what you should and shouldn't include qualifies as legal advice, which only a lawyer can give you. A lawyer is your best option because they can make your application answers stronger, complete the forms for you, and communicate with the SSA. They can take the stress of applying off your shoulders.
After you submit your application, the SSA will review your responses to confirm that you meet the technical requirements. Your application will also go to Disability Determination Services (DDS) to confirm that you meet the medical requirements. DDS may request a quick consultative exam with an SSA doctor.
The SSA will then make a final decision on your application. On average, the process takes 6.1 months from when you submit until you get a decision.
Your chances of getting approved for benefits
Getting approved for disability is challenging. Your chances of getting approved for benefits aren’t always high, but they do improve as you go. Understanding the rates of approval at every step can help you navigate the rounds of appeal your application may go through.
The SSA rejects as many as 75% of first-time applicants. You can appeal, though, by filing for reconsideration. The SSA rejects 90% of reconsiderations but if you do get rejected, you can request a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).
While a hearing may seem intimidating, your chances of getting approved are actually higher than any other stage. In 2022, over half of the applicants who made their case in front of a judge won their claim. Applicants are also three times more likely to win benefits if they have a lawyer.
How long does it take to get disability benefits in New York?
It takes more than two years for the SSA to approve the average disability application. That’s because most applications go through multiple rounds of appeal, and each round comes with months of processing.
In 2022, applicants received an initial decision after an average of 6.1 months, or 184 days. They then waited an average of 6.1 more months, or 183 days, to receive a decision on their reconsideration request. The wait time to get a hearing after that depends on which SSA hearing office oversees your application. In New York, applicants wait 12 months on average to get a hearing. That means that New Yorkers wait an average of just over two years from the time they apply until the time they’re approved.
There are 10 hearing offices across New York state. The table below shows waiting times for a each of them:
New York Varick
How to speed up the process
The application process can take months or years, so submit your application as soon as possible. Respond quickly if the SSA does request more information; that’s the only way to avoid additional delays. Your lawyer can also keep your application moving by following up with the SSA and managing your appeal requests.
Unfortunately, wait times can be long. The good news is that your first SSA check will include back pay benefits, which cover the months or even years of payments you missed while waiting for a decision.
SSI offers a maximum monthly payment of $914. On average, though, New Yorkers receive an average of $642.48 per month.
Your current monthly income has the greatest impact on your benefit amount. The SSA will take the amount of money you receive each month and subtract that from the monthly maximum. Your monthly SSI benefit would be $914 if you receive no other money each month.
Applying for SSI and SSDI isn’t easy. While you can do it by yourself, a lawyer can take the burden off of your shoulders so you can focus on your health. Your lawyer can follow up with the SSA, handle your appeals, and make your case in front of a judge. These are a few of the many reasons why applicants who work with a lawyer have higher odds of approval.
If you do look for a New York disability lawyer, consider these factors:
Reviews: Look for a lawyer with positive feedback from their customers, but a couple of bad reviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Beware if you notice a pattern, though. For example, if many people say the lawyer was inconsiderate or missed deadlines, that may be a sign that they can’t provide the level of service you deserve.
Primary area of practice: Disability benefits are a unique legal area. Lawyers who specialize in disability cases, rather than say workers’ comp or personal injury law, are more likely to have the skills to win your case.
Location (to an extent): Lawyers local to the hearing office may know the judges, which can help them make your case. That said, the Social Security disability rules are the same in every state and for every hearing office, so a remote lawyer who consults over the phone or a lawyer who’s local to you can still successfully represent you.
Communication: The application process is long. Look for a lawyer who will follow up often with you and the SSA. You deserve someone who will stay on top of your case and doesn’t cause any additional delays.
Practice history: If a lawyer has a history of winning disability cases, they can probably win yours, too. New lawyers can also provide great representation, but it’s harder to verify that they have the experience to navigate your case.
Working with a good disability lawyer is one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting approved. But it isn’t always easy to find one with the right qualifications. Atticus can help match you with someone who’s right for your claim! We’ve been vetting disability lawyers for years, which means we’ve already identified people who will treat you with priority and respect. If you want help finding a lawyer, fill out our disability quiz to get started. Getting matched is free and you’ll never have to pay the lawyer unless they win you benefits.
Skip the reading. See which benefits you qualify for in 2-minutes or less.
Frequently asked questions about benefits in New York
What qualifies you for disability in New York?
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 New York?
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 New York?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in New York. 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: Why It Takes so Long to Get Approved for Disability Benefits
How much does disability pay in New York?
The average SSDI payment in New York is $1,407.15 per month. The average SSI payment is $642.48 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 New York?
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 New York have a state disability program?
Yes, New York is one of the five states with its own state disability program. New Yorkers can apply for short-term disability benefits that offer up to 26 weeks of payments. Work injuries aren’t covered, though. If your injury will keep you out of work longer, you can still apply for SSDI and SSI.
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