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.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) paid disability benefits to just over 175,000 Wisconsin residents in 2022 alone. Even though the application process can feel overwhelming, every single one of them is proof that it can be done.
To help you apply, this guide will explain what you need to know about qualifying for Social Security disability benefits in Wisconsin — who’s eligible, how to navigate the application process, and the value of your potential benefits.
Wisconsin doesn’t have a disability program at the state-level. Residents will need to apply for benefits through the federal government unless they have coverage through a private insurer. These are the disability programs available to Wisconsinites:
SSDI and SSI are the most common programs available to Wisconsin residents with disabilities, so the rest of this guide will take you through the application process for both programs. Read our overview of the types of disability benefits to learn more about your other options.
To qualify for disability, you’ll have to meet strict medical and technical criteria overseen by the SSA. SSDI and SSI have the same medical requirements, but their technical requirements vary based on your income or work history.
The main medical criteria for SSDI and SSI is that you have a disability or medical condition that keeps you from working. You’ll need to provide documentation from your doctor, showing that they expect your condition to impact you for at least one more year — if not for the rest of your life.
The SSA’s compassionate allowance list allows people with terminal conditions to expedite the medical review process.
The SSA will also consider your age. Over the age of 50, qualifying for disability is easier because you only have to prove you can’t continue doing the types of work you already do. Under age 50, qualifying for disability gets harder because you have to prove that it’s impossible for you to do any work because of your condition, even if you retrain or learn new skills.
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:
Read more about SSDI’s technical qualifications.
To qualify for SSI, you must:
Learn more about the basics of SSI eligibility.
There are hundreds of health conditions that can qualify for disability. As long as you can prove that your condition keeps you from working and will do so for at least a year, you can qualify for disability benefits.
For the Wisconsinites who currently receive disability benefits, the most recent SSA data shows that these are the most common types conditions they have:
For the Wisconsin residents who qualify with mental health conditions, these are the most common:
Are you applying with a mental illness? Start with this guide on how to qualifying for disability with a mental health condition.
To start the disability application process, you first need to complete the main disability application form. You’ll also need to fill out a work history report, which explains your work experience, and a function report, which explains the impact your condition has on your day-to-day activities.
We also have more resources to help you apply for disability on behalf of your child or another loved one.
Make sure you give yourself enough time to complete the application properly. Set aside at least one to two hours. You’ll also need to spend some time gathering your medical or treatment records.
A disability lawyer can help you with the application but even if you have help, here are some key steps you should follow:
For more help, here’s our step-by-step guide to starting the disability application.
You can submit your application to the SSA in the following three ways:
Applying online is the easiest option but if you don’t work with a lawyer, applying in person may be more helpful. The SSA can explain what the questions are asking and make sure you answer everything. There are limitations to that, though.
Only a lawyer can give you personalized advice, like strengthening your responses or telling you which details to focus on (this all qualifies as legal advice). Your lawyer can also submit your application and follow up with the SSA on your behalf.
Read more about how a lawyer can help your application.
Getting help with the application can make the process a lot easier. Working with a lawyer is your best bet because they’ll know how to improve your answers and maximize your chances of approval. This includes filling out the application for you, communicating with the SSA, and representing you during appeals.
We at Atticus are 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 2-minute disability quiz to get started.
After you apply, the SSA will look to confirm that you meet the technical requirements for SSDI or SSI. Your state’s Disability Determination Services will then verify that you are medically eligible. They’ll review all the documentation you submitted and may request a consultative exam with either your doctor or an SSA doctor.
Based on whether you meet the medical and technical criteria, the SSA decides whether or not to approve your application. All said and done, this process takes an average of six months from the time you submit until you get a decision from the SSA.
Unfortunately, getting approved for disability isn’t easy. You should expect to go through multiple stages of denial and appeal before you receive benefits.
About 70% of first-time applicants get their application denied. You can then appeal by filing for reconsideration. At that point, the SSA rejects 90% of applications. If denied a second time, you can request to appeal the decision in a disability hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ).
A hearing may sound daunting, but your odds of approval are fairly high. In 2022, more than half of appeals ended in approval. Applicants who work with a lawyer for their hearing are also three times more likely to get approved.
Learn more about the odds of winning a disability appeal.
As of 2023, the average disability applicant in Wisconsin waits two years and five months from the time they first apply until they win benefits. This long wait isn’t out of the ordinary. Nationally, the average disability application takes about two and half years.
Here’s how the wait times break down for Wisconsin applicants:
Your total wait time will also vary based on the hearing office you’re assigned to. You can see the wait times in Wisconsin’s two hearing offices below.
Wait time for a hearing
The bad news is that you can’t speed up the process since it depends on SSA processing times. But you can take steps to avoid delays. Apply as soon as you’re able and follow up with the SSA to make sure your application doesn’t get lost. If you respond quickly to additional requests, you can also avoid possible processing delays. Your lawyer can also move the process forward by communicating with the SSA and filing your appeals.
The good news is that you will receive benefits to cover the wait time. Your first check after approval will include back pay benefits, which cover the payments you missed while waiting for a decision from the SSA.
Related article: How to Find a Good Disability Lawyer Near You
Disability benefits vary from recipient to recipient. Your actual benefit amount will vary depending on whether you get approved for SSDI or SSI — or if you get benefits from both programs at the same time.
The maximum monthly SSDI payment is $3,637 for 2023. That said, Wisconsinites on disability have an average monthly payment of $1,340.21.
Your exact benefit amount depends on our income history and how much you’ve paid into Social Security. How much you get won’t change due to your specific medical condition r where exactly you live.
Find out how much your benefits will be with an SSA.gov account:
The maximum possible payment for SSI in 2023 is $914 but in Wisconsin, benefits recipients receive an average monthly payment of $626.81.
Your benefit amount depends on your current monthly income. The SSA subtracts the money you have coming in each month from the monthly maximum. So If you have no other income, you’d receive $914 per month from the SSA.
Have more questions? Here’s exactly how your SSI is calculated.
Applying for SSDI and SSI is stressful. Working with a disability lawyer can take a lot of the worry and confusion out of the process. Your lawyer can communicate with the SSA, oversee your appeals, and handle court proceedings — even cross-examining witnesses if necessary.
If you do decide to work with a Wisconsin disability lawyer, consider these factors as you search for the right fit:
Good lawyers aren’t easy to find. Atticus exists to help you find an experienced lawyer who will make your case a priority and treat you with respect. Start with our free disability quiz so we can learn more about your situation and match you with a lawyer from our network. Getting matched is free, you’ll still get to choose whether to work with our lawyers, 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 Wisconsin. 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 Wisconsin is $1,340.21 per month. The average SSI payment is $626.81 per month. What you’ll earn is dependent 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, Wisconsin does not have a state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have a state program. Residents of Wisconsin can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.
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