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Disability in Oregon: How to Get Benefits, and How Much You Might Receive

Jackie Jakab, Attorney
By Jackie Jakab, Attorney

If you’re applying for disability benefits in Oregon, there’s some good news: There are several programs you might qualify for, and many conditions give you a good chance of qualifying. 

On the other hand, it might take you longer to get benefits in Oregon than in other states—in particular if you need a hearing scheduled. The SSA hearing offices in Oregon are on the country’s slower side (in Portland, it takes an entire year to speak with a judge after requesting a hearing). 

Here’s a complete overview of how disability works in Oregon, how long it might take, how much you might qualify for, and how to increase your chances of winning benefits. 

What disability programs are there in Oregon?

1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): A federal disability program through the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSDI supports Americans who can no longer work due to a medical condition. You qualify if you’ve worked and paid taxes, and the amount you receive depends largely on how much you’ve paid in. 

Generally if you’ve worked for five of the last ten years, you qualify for SSDI. 

2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): If you haven’t worked enough, or worked recently enough, to qualify for SSDI, you may qualify for SSI. It’s another federal program, and you use the same application to apply. SSI is only for individuals with very little income and very few assets. 

3. Long Term / Short Term Private Disability Insurance in Oregon: If you (or your employer) purchased disability insurance prior to you becoming disabled—you should be able to file a claim with the private insurer. Generally, these pay out a percentage of your former income for a given number of months—but the exact amount will depend on the policy you purchased.

4. Veterans Disability Benefits: If you served in the military and suffered an injury that left you unable to work, or you’re retired but have a medical condition as a result of your service, you are eligible to apply for disability benefits through Veterans Affairs. For more information, visit the VA’s disability benefits website

For the rest of this article, we’re going to focus on SSDI and SSI. These are the programs most people talk about when they consider “getting on disability”—and they’re the ones most people qualify for. 

It’s often necessary to apply for SSDI and SSI when trying to qualify for other programs (like most long-term disability plans). Or, they’re advantageous to apply for in conjunction with other programs (like VA benefits).  

Qualifying for disability in Oregon

While being medically disabled is a requirement for SSDI and SSI—there are technical requirements (work and income) that are just as important for approval. We’ll share the basic qualifications and then explore some details that may apply to your specific case. 

SSDI qualifications

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must:

  • Be under 67 years old.
  • Have a disability that will last longer than one year or potentially lead to death. You cannot get SSDI benefits if you have a partial or short-term disability. 
  • Meet the requirements for “work credits” for your age. You can check your work credits by making an account at SSA.gov—but most people qualify if they’ve worked five out of the last ten years.

More on eligibility here.

SSI qualifications

To qualify for SSI, you must:

  • Have a disability that will last longer than one year or potentially lead to death.
  • Having very little in terms of assets like personal or retirement savings (less than $2000, or less than $3000 if you are married).
  • Have very little or no income from any source (generally less than 1,000 per month)

More on qualifying for SSI here.

What medical conditions qualify you for disability in Oregon?

Any medical condition that prevents you from working for at least a year can qualify for disability.

Amongst these the most common conditions in Oregon were:

  • Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissues (34,501 people)
  • Diseases of the nervous systems and sense organs (12,883 people)
  • Depressive bi-polar and related disorders (12,790 people)
  • Intellectual disorders (9,380 people)
  • Other mental disorders (8,460 people)

Overall, many conditions can qualify for disability benefits. Across the state, categorically, SSDI recipients have the following conditions:

  • Mental disorders: 37.1%
  • Injuries 3.4%
  • Neoplasms: 2.8%
  • Endocrine nutritional and metabolic diseases: 2.2%
  • Infectious and parasitic diseases: .8%
  • Congenital Abnormalities: .5%
  • Disease of the blood and blood forming organs .2%
  • Diseases of the circulatory system: 4.9%
  • Diseases of the digestive system: 1.8%
  • Diseases of the Genito-urinary system: 1.3%
  • Diseases of the musculo-skeletal system: 29.6%
  • DIseases of the nervous system: 11.1%
  • Diseases of the respiratory system: 1.9%
  • Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue: .3%
  • Other: .2%
  • Unknown: 1.9%

If your condition falls into any of these categories and prevents you from being able to work, the SSA will likely award you disability benefits. If you have a particularly severe condition (stage 4 cancer, ALS), you may be on the compassionate allowance list—which automatically qualifies you for benefits, if you meet the work or income requirements. 

How to apply for disability in Oregon

You can apply for disability benefits with the help of a lawyer, or on your own. Most often, you’ll file the application, and be asked to submit some supplementary documentation on your work history, your day-to-day functioning, and the treatment you receive for your condition. 

How do I submit an application? 

There are three ways to submit an application for disability benefits: 

If you’re not applying with a lawyer, it’s generally helpful to apply at the SSA office. They won’t give you legal advice, but can advise you on how to answer the application questions accurately.

How should I prepare my application?

It takes most people hours to submit an application because of the documentation needed. 

Here’s what you’ll need to do to submit an application:

  • Collect your records. This includes medical records, contact information for doctors, work history, education records, bank account information, and other documents you will need to include with your application. 
  • Fill out and submit the application and include supplemental documents and forms. Combined, the forms can be more than 30 pages and take hours to complete. When filling out the forms, be extremely clear and specific about your limitations and pain level while remaining realistic. It’s also critical to make sure that you’re consistent with your answers between forms, as they often ask similar questions. 
  • Follow-up with SSA right after you submit. Sometimes applications get lost, and the SSA has a lot of claims to get through. You’ll want to confirm they have received and are processing your application. 
  • Respond to requests from Social Security Administration ASAP. They may ask for supplemental information or request that you see a SSA doctor. You will typically have 10 days to submit documentation. 

If you’re working with a lawyer, they should fill out your application for you (the right way), and confirm receipt with the SSA. (If you’d like more advice on how to fill out the initial application, or how you can find the right lawyer—Atticus gives legal advice for free). 

What comes next?

While some people have their application accepted at the initial decision stage—most people (~69.3%) are rejected, and have to file for reconsideration. ~91% of reconsiderations are also rejected, and applicants request a hearing with an administrative law judge. 

At a hearing, nearly 50% of people win benefits—and your odds increase threefold if you work with a lawyer. We wrote at length about what to expect at a hearing and your chances of winning your appeal

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

Given how frequently initial applications are denied, it can take several months to a year or more to get your claim approved.

In 2021, to receive an initial decision took an average of 5.5 months (165 days). The time to process your reconsideration took 4.9 months (147 days).

The time you wait for your hearing date depends on your SSA hearing office. The average wait in Oregon is anywhere from 9 months (Eugene office) to a year (Portland office).

On average, it takes 1.73 years to get disability benefits in Oregon—plus any additional time you take to send in additional paperwork, file reconsideration, and request a hearing. Most applicants will take around two to two and a half years to go from application to final decision. 

Sending the SSA your documentation as soon as possible is the only way to speed up this process—so it’s important to meet deadlines, and get forms and medical records their way as fast as possible. Your lawyer can help you stay on track, and will call to confirm the SSA has all the information they need. 

How does disability pay in Oregon?

Average benefit amount for SSDI recipients in Oregon

The average monthly benefit for SSDI recipients in Oregon was $1,261.16 per month (according to the most recent SSA data). This was slightly above the nationwide average of $1,277.05.

It’s easy to learn exactly what you would qualify for by signing up for an SSA.gov account. To check your potential benefit amount, and your SSDi work-history eligibility: 

  • Visit SSA.gov
  • Click “mySocialSecurity”
  • Create an account using your Social Security number
  • Scroll down to the section titled “Disability”

Benefit amounts for SSI recipients in Oregon

The maximum you can receive for SSI nationwide is $841 per month. The SSA will subtract any other regular monthly income from this amount. So you’ll either $841 or $841 minus other income sources (ie. stocks and investments, SNAP benefits, part-time work, etc.)

The average monthly SSI payment in Oregon was ​​$576.08 per month in 2020, just above the national average of $568.13 . 

Disability attorneys of Oregon: How to find the right lawyer

When you’re applying, disability attorneys can save you from critical application missteps and save you weeks of paperwork. At the hearing stage, they’ll cross examine witnesses from the state and help you make the best possible case before a judge. Overall, applicants with a lawyer on their side are three times more likely to win benefits than those without. 

If you’re looking for a Oregon disability lawyer on your own, consider these key criteria before hiring:

  • Their primary area of practice: Confirm that they only take, or primarily take disability cases—so you know they’ll understand, and prioritize, your case.
  • Reviews: Make sure you really read the content of the reviews. A few bad reviews here and there shouldn’t be cause for alarm—but keep an eye out for patterns. If  you’re reading the same points over and over again, like “never calls me back” or “doesn’t show up at hearing”—this might not be a lawyer you can trust.
  • Location: Having a local lawyer could be good since they can know the local judges, and you yourself can get to know the lawyer personally. If you find a great fit that works nationally—see if they have a history of taking cases in your region.
  • Time practicing: You want to look for lawyers that have been working for a long time as there’s a higher chance of them already working on cases similar to yours. New lawyers can be good too, but they’re harder to vet without a legal background.

It can be challenging to suss out great lawyers from mediocre lawyers without a legal background. If you’d like to be matched with a lawyer who’s a great fit for your claim, Atticus can help (for free).

We’ve spent years vetting disability lawyers and have built a network of legal teams (chosen from the top 5% of firms). We trust them to treat our clients well, and to win their cases. If you want our help evaluating the right disability lawyer for you, sign up here.

Ready to get benefits today?
Jackie Jakab, Attorney
Jackie Jakab, AttorneyJackie 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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