Disability Benefits in Utah: Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved in 2023
July 1, 2023 · 8 min read
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In 2022, just over 52,000 Utahns received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Like them, you can successfully navigate the application process and win benefits. To help, this guide explains who is eligible for benefits, how the disability application process works, and the monthly benefit payments you may receive.
What Utah disability program should I apply for?
Utah doesn’t have a state disability program but residents are still eligible for federal disability benefits and private insurance policies. If you’re a Utahn, you may qualify for one of the following programs:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The federal government administers SSDI for people who have to stop working because of a health condition. SSDI benefits are based on the income you’ve earned and taxes you’ve paid, which is why they’re the largest payments of any disability program. SSDI also comes with health insurance through Medicare.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): This is another federal disability program, although SSI is reserved for people who haven’t worked or haven’t worked enough to qualify for SSDI. That includes older Americans and children with disabilities. There are also income and assets you need to meet. SSI includes health insurance through Medicaid.
Veterans disability benefits: Active duty or retired veterans who can’t work because of an injury they received in the line of duty can qualify for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You can receive VA benefits while you receive SSDI or SSI payments. Visit Atticus’ VA disability benefits page to learn more.
Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: You can access these policies either through your employer or by purchasing a plan directly from a private insurer. You can only file a claim if you had your policy before you stopped working. Most policies offer payments worth up to 60% of your former paychecks. Even if you qualify for your plan’s long-term benefits, the insurance company will probably require you to apply for SSDI or dock your benefits.
Utahns most often qualify for disability benefits through SSDI or SSI, so the rest of this guide will walk you through the application process for both programs. If you’d like help with the other programs, read our guide to 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 Utah
There are two sets of criteria you’ll have to meet before you can qualify for Social Security disability. The first is medical criteria, which are the same for both programs. The second is technical criteria, which vary between SSDI and SSI.
Medical qualifications for disability benefits
The medical qualifications for SSDI and SSI are two-fold: You must have proof that you have a disability or medical condition and can’t work because of it, and your condition must be expected to continue for at least a full year. You’ll need to provide documentation from your doctors and healthcare providers, including thorough medical records.
If you have a severe or terminal condition that’s listed on the SSA’s compassionate allowance list, you can get medical approval more quickly.
Your age also influences your chances of approval. Applicants over age 50 qualify more easily since the SSA only needs proof that you can’t continue the kind of work you’ve done in the past. If you’re under age 50, getting approved is more challenging because you have to prove you can’t work even if you retrain.
Technical SSDI qualifications
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:
You’re 66 or younger (below your full retirement age).
You have enough work credits, meaning you’ve paid enough taxes into Social Security. You’re more likely to 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.
The SSA publishes the most common types of conditions they award benefits for, but you can win benefits as long as you stopped working because of your condition and will likely need to stay out of work for at least a year. (Learn more about qualifying health conditions.)
The most recent SSA data shows that Utahns who receive disability most commonly received them for following types of conditions:
To apply for disability, you’ll need to complete a few different forms. The first is the main application, which is the same whether you apply for SSI or SSDI. Next, you’ll fill out two supplemental forms: a work history report to explain your work experience and a function report to explain how your condition limits your daily activities. The SSA may request more forms or medical information once it starts reviewing your application.
Set aside a few hours to prepare your application. It can take a couple of hours or more to fill out the initial application, plus whatever time you need to gather your documentation and medical records. A lawyer can usually work through this process faster, but there are some things you can to do prepare:
Collect all your personal records. Gather medical records, treatment forms, bank account information, work and income history, and contact information for your healthcare providers. The more medical documents you can share, the better.
Make sure to fill out the whole application. Your application may face processing delays if you haven’t answered every question or completed every form.
Answer questions honestly and consistently. All the information in your medical records and supplemental forms should match your application responses. Be honest about your condition and how it impacts you — including symptoms and pain levels — to avoid inconsistencies.
Follow up with the SSA right after you submit. Contact the SSA to verify they received your application and are processing it. Your lawyer can also do this for you.
Respond to SSA requests immediately. This is a great way to prevent delays, although you will have 10 days to respond.
Applying online can be convenient, but consider applying in person if you choose not to work with a lawyer. The SSA staff can help you understand what the application questions are asking and clarify anything else about the process. But only a lawyer can offer personalized legal advice, which includes how to make your responses stronger.
Many applicants want help with the application. Working with a lawyer is likely your best option. Lawyers are the only ones who can strengthen your responses, submit the application for you, follow up with the SSA, and appear for court hearings. Even better, a good disability lawyer won’t charge anything until after you win benefits.
We at Atticus are a law firm, which means we can provide advice on filling out your application and finding the right lawyer for your case. To get help today, fill out our free 2-minute disability benefits quiz.
What happens after I apply for disability?
After you apply, your application goes through multiple reviews. First is an SSA review to verify that you meet the technical requirements for SSI or SSDI. Then, Disability Determination Services (DDS) will complete its own review to confirm you’re medically eligible. As part of these reviews, you may need to complete a phone interview with the SSA or schedule a consultative exam with a DDS doctor.
This process may sound simple but as of early 2023, applicants waited an average of just over six months for a decision.
Your chances of getting approved for benefits
You may go through a few rounds of denial and appeal before you get the SSA’s final decision. The good news is that your chances of getting approved for benefits are highest after multiple appeals.
The SSA rejects 70% of applicants on their first review. Applicants can then file for reconsideration, but the SSA rejects 90% of those reviews. If that happens, you can appeal for a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).
This may not sound promising, but appearing in front of a judge can be good for your case. Just over half of disability hearings ended with approval in 2022. You’re also three times more likely to win if you work with a lawyer at this stage.
How long does it take to get disability benefits in Utah?
Utahns wait an average of two and a half years — about 30 months — from the time they apply until the time they are approved as of early 2023. This is a few months longer than the average wait in the United States.
The multiple rounds of appeal most applicants go through contribute to the long wait. If you live in Utah, you should expect the following average wait times for each round:
Initial decision: 6.1 months (184 days)
Reconsideration decision: 6.1 months (183 days)
Wait time for a hearing: 14 months (plus 1-3 months to get a decision)
That said, wait times vary by hearing office. How long you actually wait will vary based on wait times at your local hearing office. There is only one hearing office in Utah and the wait time for it is below.
Wait time for a hearing
Salt Lake City
How to speed up the process
There is no way to speed up the application process, but there are some great ways to prevent delays. Submit your application as soon as it's complete, then contact the SSA to make sure they’ve received it. Respond quickly to any requests from the SSA. Your lawyer can also help by following up with the SSA and handling your appeals.
The silver lining is that, once you get approved, your first disability check will include back pay benefits. These benefits cover the payments you would’ve received if you’d been approved earlier instead of having to appeal.
There is no one disability benefits amount in Utah. To determine your check size, the SSA will consider either your work experience (for SSDI) or your monthly income (for SSI). Your payment will also vary if you receive payments from SSDI and SSI at the same time.
The monthly maximum SSI payment for 2024 is $943, but Utah residents receive an average SSI payment of $599.43.
The SSA will subtract any money you have coming each month from the program’s monthly maximum to determine your SSI benefits amount. That means that your monthly SSI payment will be $943 if you have no other income.
Applying for SSDI and SSI is challenging, but a lawyer can make the process much easier. Your lawyer can handle appeals, stay in touch with the SSA, and represent you at court hearings. This takes some of the stress of applying off your shoulders. It’s also why you’re more likely to get approved if you do work with a lawyer.
As you look for a Utah disability lawyer, consider the following factors:
Reviews: Look for patterns in the negative reviews. Positive reviews are always better, but the real red flag is if multiple clients have very similar, poor experiences with a lawyer. Every lawyer loses cases sometimes, but they should still treat every case as a priority.
Communication: You likely won’t talk with your lawyer for months at a time during processing periods, but they should be easy for you and the SSA to get a hold of as your application progresses. They should also respond quickly if you have questions for them.
Primary area of practice: There are many skilled lawyers, but Social Security disability law is unique. Look for a lawyer who focuses on disability cases because they’ll know the ins and outs of helping someone win benefits.
Location (somewhat): A local lawyer may know the judges and their preferences. But a lawyer who consults over the phone can be just as helpful. Social Security disability laws are the same in every state and many disability hearings are held remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Atticus can help you find an experienced lawyer who will make your case a priority and treat you with respect. Start with our free disability benefits questionnaire and we’ll find you a qualified match. You’ll still get to choose whether to work with our lawyers, and you won’t pay anything until after you win benefits.
Ready to get benefits today?
Frequently asked questions about benefits in Utah
How do I qualify for disability in Utah?
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 Utah?
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 Utah?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Utah. 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 Utah?
The average SSDI payment in Utah is $1,351.22 per month. The average SSI payment is $599.43 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 Utah?
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 Utah have a state disability program?
No, there is no Utah state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have their own program. Residents of Utah can apply for the federal disability programs of SSDI and SSI. Read more about the differences between SSDI and SSI here.
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Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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