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Arkansas Disability Benefits: How to Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
December 16, 2022  ·  6 min read
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Around 140,000 people in Arkansas — 1.6% of residents — receive disability benefits. However, the process of getting benefits is often stressful and confusing. This guide to benefits in Arkansas will help you understand what benefits are available and how the Social Security disability application process works.

What Arkansas disability program should I apply for?

Since there aren’t any state-level disability programs in Arkansas, you’ll need to apply for benefits through a private program or federal program. Here are four of the most common types of disability.

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI supports individuals who worked for years but can no longer work due to a medical condition. The program is run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). How long you’ve worked and paid taxes determines how large your benefits check is.

  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is a federal program similar to SSDI, but it’s available to people with little or no income and savings. People without much work history can also qualify.

  3. Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: Private disability insurance policies can be provided by employers or purchased independently. If you have one of these policies, you’re eligible to file a claim with the private insurer as long as your policy was active before your disability began. They usually pay out a percentage of your former paychecks for several months. Specific amounts and terms vary by policy. Even if you qualify for long-term benefits, your plan may require you to apply for SSDI.

  4. Veterans disability benefits: The Department of Veterans Affairs offers disability benefits for retired and non-retired veterans with service-related injuries that prevent them from working. Learn more about how Atticus can help you with VA benefits.

The rest of this guide will dive more deeply into SSDI and SSI since those are the most common types of benefits that people in Arkansas qualify for.

How can I qualify for disability in Arkansas?

There are medical and technical requirements you have to meet to qualify for SSI and SSDI. While the medical criteria are the same for both programs, each has different work and income qualifications.

Medical conditions that qualify for disability in Arkansas

You may qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you have a health condition that lasts longer than one year and renders you unable to work.

Data released in 2022 lists some of the most common conditions that qualify for disability benefits in Arkansas. Percentages below represent how many Social Security disability recipients have the following conditions in Arkansas:

  • Congenital anomalies: 0.4%

  • Endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases: 3.5%

  • Infectious and parasitic diseases: 0.7%

  • Injuries: 3.6%

  • Mental Disorders: 30.6%

  • Cancers: 2.5%

  • Diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs: 0.3%

  • Diseases of the circulatory system: 7.8%

  • Diseases of the digestive system: 1.5%

  • Diseases of the genitourinary system: 1.3% 

  • Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue: 33.7% 

  • Diseases of the nervous system and sense organs: 9.2%

  • Diseases of the respiratory system: 2.8%

  • Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue: 0.3% 

  • Other types of mental or physical disorders: 0.2%

  • Unknown: 1.7%

Mental health conditions represent slightly under a third of the qualifying applicants for disability benefits in Arkansas. A few of the most common are:

  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders: 15,651 people

  • Intellectual disorders: 13,065 people

  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders: 5,116 people

Learn more about what conditions qualify for disability benefits.

Technical SSDI qualifications

To qualify for SSDI, you must:

  • Be younger than 67 years old.

  • Meet “work credit” requirements, which are based on age. You can determine whether you meet the criteria on your SSA.gov account. In most cases, people qualify if they have worked for five out of the last 10 years.

Learn more about SSDI eligibility here.

Technical SSI qualifications

To qualify for SSI, you must:

  • Have little or no income, usually classified as less than $1,000 per month.

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

Learn more about SSI eligibility here.

Connect with a top disability lawyer in Arkansas

How do I apply for disability in Arkansas?

The disability benefits application consists of the main form (SSA-16), plus supplementary ones that ask about your work history, level of daily functioning, and any type of treatment you are receiving for your condition. Filling out the forms on your own is an option, but getting professional assistance from a disability lawyer is always a good idea.

How do I submit an application?

You have three options on where to file your disability benefits application:

  1. Apply in person at your local SSA office

  2. Apply online through the SSA website

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

Applying in person is a great idea for people who aren’t working with a lawyer. Although the SSA staff aren’t qualified to give you legal advice, they can give you advice on how to answer the application questions accurately.

How should I prepare my application?

Setting aside plenty of time to complete your disability application is crucial. The process can take longer than you might expect. Multiple questions require detailed answers and getting all the proper information takes time.

If you work with a lawyer, they will help you get everything you need to apply. However, if you decide to apply on your own, there are a few steps you’ll need to take:

  • Gather your records. Information like medical records, work history, education records, bank account information, and contact information for doctors or medical providers are required for an SSI/SSDI application. Make sure all the submitted information is accurate and up to date.

  • Submit the application, including all required documents and forms. Be specific and realistic about your limitations, pain levels, and other medical details while filling out the forms. Be as consistent as possible with your answers. The application does ask similar questions on different forms.

  • Follow up with SSA as soon as possible after you submit. Contact the SSA soon after you submit the forms to ensure they’ve received it and are processing your application.

  • Respond immediately to any requests about your application. To avoid further delays with your application, gather and submit any supplemental information required. You may also be asked to see an SSA doctor. Typically, you have 10 days to complete any actions or provide additional documentation.

Disability lawyers are trained in how to fill out a disability benefits application and will get a confirmation receipt for you from the SSA. For more advice on finding a lawyer, Atticus is here to help. We provide free legal advice and tips on the entire application process. To get started, fill out our 2-minute disability quiz.

What happens after I apply?

While some applications are approved after a single review, most are not. Around 70% of people that apply are rejected and have to file for reconsideration. However, the process doesn’t get easier from here either. Over 90% of applicants are rejected after the second review. After this, you’re eligible to request a hearing in front of a judge.

Applicants who proceed with a hearing have the highest chance of being accepted, with an approval rate of just over 50%. The chance of getting approved is also three times higher with the help of a lawyer.

If you’re curious about what to expect at a hearing, here’s a glimpse into the courtroom.

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

Getting a final decision from the SSA can take years since most applications require multiple rounds of review.

Based on data from early 2024, the SSA reported that it took, on average, 6.1 months (184 days) to provide an initial decision. Processing a reconsideration request added another 6.1 months, or 183 days. The average wait time to get a hearing in Arkansas was 9.5 months, but how long you wait may differ depending on your local SSA office’s processing times. All told, the disability benefits process takes an average of 21.7 months.

Here’s a breakdown of average wait times for the two hearing offices in Arkansas.

Hearing office 

Wait time for a hearing 

Fort Smith

7 months

Little Rock

12 months

The only way to accelerate this process is to assemble and turn in all documentation the SSA requests as fast as possible, along with meeting the required deadlines. This is another area where a lawyer can help. They’ll make sure you stay on track with your submissions and check in with the SSA to confirm it has everything.

How much does disability pay in Arkansas?

The amount of your disability check will vary depending on the type of benefits you receive.

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

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

monthly check


Average SSDI payments in Arkansas

The average monthly SSDI benefit for Arkansas residents is $1,294.57. How much you receive every month depends on your work history, with the maximum possible SSDI payment being $3,822 in 2024.

It’s also easy to figure out your SSDI payment on the SSA.gov website. You just need to create an account by:

  • Visiting SSA.gov

  • Clicking “mySocialSecurity”

  • Creating an account using your Social Security number (SSN)

  • Scrolling down to the section titled “Disability”

Average SSI payments in Arkansas

The average monthly SSI payment in Arkansas is $571.43, compared to a maximum possible amount of $943 in 2024.

To calculate your SSI benefit amount, the SSA subtracts your monthly income (including stock earnings, money from part-time work, and SNAP benefits) from the max amount.

How to find the right disability attorney in Arkansas

Having a lawyer that specializes in disability benefits cases will save you from making crucial mistakes when submitting your Social Security disability application. If your first application isn’t approved, your disability lawyer will help with the appeal process. They can cross-examine witnesses, act as your advocate, and help you make the best case before the judge. You’re also three times more likely to win benefits if you have a lawyer.

As you’re searching for a disability lawyer in Arkansas, there are a few things you need to consider: 

  • Primary area of practice: When you first speak with a potential lawyer, be sure to confirm whether they focus on disability cases. If they don’t they may not have the expertise of bandwidth necessary to help with your case.

  • Reviews: It’s essential to look at the content of the lawyer’s reviews if you can. While a couple of bad reviews aren’t a major red flag, multiple negative comments signify that the lawyer may not be what you want.

  • Communication: Whether you talk to your lawyer through email, over the phone, or in person, they should be reliable. Look for a disability lawyer that keeps you updated on your case and answers your questions clearly. How well other clients felt the lawyers communicated with them is one helpful thing to look for in lawyer reviews.

  • How long they’ve practiced: The longer a lawyer has practiced, the more experience they have working on cases similar to yours. While new lawyers can be fantastic, they’re just a bit harder to vet.

  • Location (to an extent): Getting a lawyer in your area may be beneficial because they will be more familiar with local judges. However, a local lawyer isn’t a necessity since SSDI and SSI have the same rules in every state. A lawyer who you can only talk with over the phone may be just as qualified as someone who lives in your city.

Atticus can help you find an experienced lawyer. We’ve already done the heavy lifting of vetting lawyers across the country and we can match you with someone who’s right for your case — for free! To learn more and get connected with a disability lawyer today, just complete our 2-minute quiz. Then a member from our team will reach out with next steps.

Ready to get benefits today?

Frequently asked questions about benefits in Arkansas

How do I qualify for disability in Arkansas?

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 Arkansas?

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 Arkansas?

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

The average SSDI payment in Arkansas is $1,413.31 per month. The average SSI payment is $651.63 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.

How should I prepare my disability application in Arkansas?

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 Arkansas have a state disability program?

No, Arkansas doesn't have a state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have a state program. Residents of Arkansas can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.

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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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