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Disability in Alabama: How to Qualify, Apply, and Win Benefits

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
December 1, 2022  ·  6 min read
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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.

See if you qualify

More than 200,000 Alabama residents receive Social Security disability benefits, an increase from years past. But while this assistance can help make ends meet during difficult times, the application process is often time-consuming and confusing.

We’ve created this guide to help you understand if you qualify for benefits, how the application process works, and how much benefits might be worth for you.

We've helped 2,589 people in Alabama apply for benefits.

What Alabama disability program should I apply for? 

There is no statewide disability program in Alabama. Instead, you’ll need to apply for federal programs or private disability benefits. Below are descriptions of the four most common disability programs.

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI supports people across America who have worked for years but can no longer work due to a medical condition. This program is run by the Social Security Administration (SSA), a government entity. The longer you’ve worked and paid taxes, the more likely you are to qualify for SSDI and the larger your benefits checks will be.

  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): If you don’t have a long or recent work history, SSI is an option. It’s a federal program like SSDI and they even use the same application. However, SSI is geared toward people with limited income and assets.

  3. Long-term or Short-term private disability Insurance: Disability insurance policies are often provided by employers or purchased by individuals before an injury or illness. If you have one of these policies, you can file a claim with your private insurer. Usually, they will pay out a percentage of your former paychecks for a set number of months; your policy details determine this. 

  4. Veterans disability benefits: Veterans are eligible for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs if they’ve served in the military but suffered an injury that’s left them unable to work. You can also receive VA benefits at the same time as SSDI or SSI. Learn more about how to apply for veterans disability benefits.

This remainder of this guide will cover only SSDI and SSI, as they’re the most common type of disability benefits that Alabamans qualify for. Even if you apply for the other programs, you may still need to apply for SSDI or SSI.

Skip the reading. See which benefits you qualify for in 2 minutes or less.

How to qualify for disability in Alabama

To qualify for SSDI or SSI, you must meet medical and technical requirements. The medical requirements are the same for both programs, but each has different work and income qualifications.

Technical SSDI qualifications

To qualify for SSDI, you must:

  • Be under 67 years old.

  • Meet work credit requirements. These are based on age and can be determined through your SSA.gov account. In most cases, people qualify if they have worked five out of the last 10 years.

Learn more about SSDI eligibility.

Technical SSI qualifications

To qualify for SSI, you must: 

  • Have minimal assets, such as personal or retirement savings — less than $2,000 for single applicants and $3,000 for married individuals.

  • Have little to no income, which usually means less than $1,000 per month.

Learn more about SSI eligibility.


Conditions that qualify for disability in Alabama

If you have a health condition that leaves you unable to work and it’s expected to continue for at least one year, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Based on SSA data released in 2022, the most common conditions to qualify for disability benefits in Alabama (as a percentage of benefits recipients) were:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders: 36.2%

  • Mental health conditions: 28.4%

  • Neurological (nervous system) disorders: 9.2%

  • Cardiovascular (circulatory system) disorders: 7.8%

  • Injuries: 3.8%

  • Endocrine disorders: 3.1%

  • Respiratory conditions: 2.4%

  • Cancers (neoplasms): 2.3%

  • Genitourinary disorders (kidney disease): 1.5%

  • Digestive system disorders: 1.3%

  • Infectious and parasitic diseases: 0.9%

  • Congenital anomalies (birth defects): 0.4%

  • Hematological (blood) disorders: 0.3%

  • Skin conditions: 0.3%

  • Other qualifying conditions: 0.3%

Mental health conditions can also qualify for benefits. A few of the most common mental health disorders were:

  • Intellectual disorders: 19,754 people

  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders: 23,046 people

  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders: 8,462 people

Learn more about what conditions qualify for disability benefits.


Get help from a great disability lawyer in Alabama.

How to apply for disability in Alabama

When you apply for disability benefits, there is a main application form plus supplementary forms that ask for information on your work history, day-to-day functioning, and any treatment you receive for your condition. You can fill out these forms on your own, though you can also get professional help from a disability lawyer.

How to submit an application

There are three ways to file your disability benefits application: 

  1. Apply online through the SSA website

  2. Apply over the phone by calling (800) 772-1213 

  3. Apply in person at your local SSA office

If you aren’t working with a lawyer, applying in person may be a good option for you. While the SSA staff can’t give you legal advice, they can advise you on how to accurately answer the application questions.

How should I prepare my application? 

Preparing your disability application takes longer than you’d think because there are so many moving parts. A lawyer can help you keep track of these, helping to make sure you have everything you need to apply.

However, if you’re applying on your own, below are some of the things you need to do.

  • Gather your records. Medical records, contact information for doctors or medical providers, work history, education records, bank account information, and other documents are all required for an application.

  • Submit the application and include supplemental documents and forms. As you’re filling out the forms, it’s essential to be specific and realistic about your limitations and pain levels. Being consistent with your answers between forms is also key because they often ask similar questions.

  • Follow up with the SSA right after you submit. It’s easy for applications to get lost because of the massive amount of submissions the SSA receives. Reach out to them soon after you submit to confirm that they’ve received and are processing your application.

  • Respond to any requests from SSA immediately. If any supplemental information is required or you are asked to see an SSA doctor, you typically have 10 days to provide documentation.

A lawyer, if you have one, can fill out an application for you and then confirm receipt with the SSA. If you’d like more advice on filling out the initial application or finding the right lawyer, Atticus can provide free legal advice. Fill out our 2-minute disability quiz to get started

What happens after I apply?

Some applications are accepted after the first review, but around 70% of people are rejected and have to file for reconsideration. A high number of these reconsidered applications (over 90%) are also rejected. At that point you can request a hearing in front of a judge. 

Applicants who take part in a hearing have the highest acceptance rate, with more than 50% of people being approved for benefits. Your chance of approval is also three times higher if you have a lawyer.

Here’s a glimpse of what to expect at a hearing.

How long does it take to get disability benefits in Alabama?

Because applications frequently have to go through multiple rounds of denial and appeal, the getting approved for disability takes more than two years on average.

In 2022, it took an average of 6.1 months, or 184 days, for applicants to receive an initial decision. To process a reconsideration request, applicants had to wait another 6.1 months (183 days). Then, the average wait time to get a hearing in Alabama was 12.25 months. But depending on which office is handling the hearing, that wait time could be between 10 and 14 months.

The time you wait for your hearing depends on your SSA hearing office. Here’s a breakdown of the wait times by office.

Hearing office

Wait time for a hearing

Birmingham

14 months

Florence

12 months

Mobile

10 months

Montgomery

13 months

Sending requested documentation to the SSA as quickly as possible is the only way to speed up this process. It’s important to meet deadlines and assemble the required paperwork as fast as possible. Your lawyer will help you stay on track and call to confirm the SSA has the necessary information.


How much is disability in Alabama?

The amount of your disability check depends on which type of benefits you receive.

Average SSDI payments in Alabama

According to the most recent SSA data, the average monthly SSDI benefit Alabama residents receive is $1,333.89 — about $50 higher than the national average. However, your exact SSDI benefit check depends on your work history and the maximum possible SSDI benefit is $3,822 in 2024.

You can figure out what your potential SSDI paycheck will be on your SSA.gov account. To create an account:

Or use our benefits estimator:

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

Average
monthly check

$1,489

Average SSI payments in Alabama

The average monthly SSI payment in Alabama is $558.17, just below the national average.

The maximum anyone can receive from SSI in any state is $943 per month in 2024. To determine the amount of your SSI check, the SSA subtracts any other monthly income you have — such as SNAP benefits, stock earnings, and money from part-time work — from this max amount.

Learn more about how SSI is calculated.


Disability lawyers in Alabama: How to find the right attorney

A disability lawyer can save you from making critical mistakes while filling out your SSI or SSDI application. If your case requires a hearing, they will cross-examine witnesses, act as your advocate, and help you make the best possible case before a judge. Your chances of winning benefits are three times higher with a lawyer than without.

When you’re searching for an Alabama disability lawyer, consider these important points before hiring one:

  • Reviews: Always look at the content of the lawyer’s reviews when possible. While a few bad reviews aren’t a major red flag, consistently negative comments are a sign that the lawyer isn’t what you want.

  • Primary area of practice: You want a lawyer specializing in disability benefits. Confirm this in your initial conversation to ensure they have the appropriate understanding for your case.

  • Location (to an extent): You don’t need a lawyer who lives in your immediate area, though a lawyer who handles cases in your area may be a benefit because they’re more familiar with the local judges.

  • Communication: Look for a lawyer who communicates well and gives you reliable ways to contact them. Whether you talk to your lawyer through email, over the phone, or in person, it’s important that they keep you updated on your case and answer your questions clearly. When reading reviews of lawyers, see if former clients mention their communication skills.

  • How long they’ve practiced: The longer a lawyer has practiced, the more experience they probably have with working on cases similar to yours. While new lawyers can be just as good as seasoned ones, they’re harder to vet without a legal background.

If you’re not up for the challenge of sifting through lawyers, or you don’t have a legal background, Atticus can help match you with a lawyer who’s an excellent fit for your claim — for free! We’ve spent years vetting disability lawyers and have an extensive network of legal teams. We trust them to treat our clients with priority and respect and to win their cases. If you want help, fill out our disability quiz to get started.

Ready to get benefits today?

Frequently asked questions about benefits in Alabama

How do I qualify for disability in Alabama?

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 Alabama?

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 Alabama?

It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Alabama. 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 Alabama?

The average SSDI payment in Alabama is $1,333.89 per month. The average SSI payment is $558.17 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 Alabama?

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 Alabama have a state disability program?

No, Alabama 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 Alabama can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.

See what you qualify for

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

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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