Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.
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.
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.
Learn more about short-term disability in New York state.
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. Learn more on the VA’s website. You can also get VA benefits at the same time as SSDI or SSI.
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.
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.
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.
You can go through an expedited process if you have a severe or terminal condition that’s listed on the SSA’s compassionate allowance list.
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.
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:
Learn more about eligibility requirements for SSDI.
To qualify for SSI, you must meet the following:
Learn more about SSI eligibility rules.
There are many conditions that qualify for Social Security disability benefits, but some are much more common than others. What’s important is that the condition makes it impossible for you to work and will impact you for at least a year.
SSA data released in 2022 shows that New York disability recipients most commonly have the following conditions:
Of the New York benefits recipients with mental health conditions, the most common are:
Read more about qualifying for disability for mental health.
To apply for Social Security disability, start by filling out the main disability benefits application form. With that complete, move on to the supplemental forms. This usually includes a work history report that describes your previous work experience and a function report that details how your condition impacts your daily life.
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.
We’ve also written guides that can help if you’re applying for disability benefits for your child or applying for a family member or loved one.
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:
For more help getting going, start with this step-by-step guide to the disability application process.
To submit your application to the SSA, you can:
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.
Further reading: How a Lawyer Can Help Your Application
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.
Here at Atticus, we provide free legal advice on filling out your application and finding the right lawyer for your case. Fill out our 2-minute disability quiz to get started.
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.
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.
Learn more about the likelihood of winning a disability appeal.
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
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.
Related: How to Find the Best Disability Lawyer Near You
Disability benefits vary based on whether you receive SSDI or SSI, or if you receive benefits from both programs at the same time.
The highest possible payment for SSDI is $3,627 per month in 2023. But according to the most recent SSA data, people who live in New York receive an average monthly payment of $1,407.15.
Your SSDI check won’t change based on where you live or your specific medical conditions. Instead, the amount you’ll receive each month is based on your personal income and work history.
Find out how much your benefits will be:
Read more about how SSDI payments are calculated.
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.
Have more questions? Read more about how SSI payments are calculated.
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:
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
How long has your condition made it hard to work?
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