How long does it take to get disability benefits in Georgia? How much will the program pay? What's considered a disability anyway?
Our short answers: The process can take a few months or several years. The benefits can amount to nine-figures over your lifetime. And many conditions qualify—as long it renders you unable to work for a year or more.
Still have questions? We still have answers. Read on to learn more about how to apply for disability in Georgia, which benefit programs you should apply for, what conditions qualify, and how to find the right lawyer (if you need one).
What disability programs are there in Georgia?
Georgia doesn’t have a state-based disability benefits program—but there are some national and private disability options Georgians can qualify for.
1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI supports Americans who can no longer work due to a medical condition. Generally if you’ve worked for five of the last ten years, you qualify for SSDI (more on that below). The program is run through the Social Security Administration, and the amount you receive depends largely on how much you’ve paid into Social Security on your taxes.
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, and generally pays out less monthly than SSDI.
3. Long Term / Short Term Private Disability Insurance: If you (or your employer) purchased disability insurance prior to you becoming disabled—you can file a claim with the private insurer. These pay out a percentage of your former income—but the exact amount and duration of the benefit will depend on the policy.
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 should 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 qualify for in Georgia, and is generally what someone means when they talk about “applying for disability.”
It’s also frequently 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 Georgia
What medical conditions qualify you for disability in Georgia?
Some particularly severe or terminal conditions (stage 4 cancer, ALS), may be listed for compassionate allowance. In these cases, you automatically qualify for federal benefits (so long as you meet the work or income requirements).
Most Americans, however, have a condition that is debilitating, but much less rare or severe.
Amongst these the most common condition types to qualify in Georgia were:
- Diseases of the musculo-skeletal system: 31.9%
- Mental disorders: 28.3%
- DIseases of the nervous system: 9.7%
- Diseases of the circulatory system: 9.0%
- Injuries 3.7%
- Neoplasms: 3.1%
- Endocrine nutritional and metabolic diseases: 2.7%
- Diseases of the respiratory system: 2.7%
- Diseases of the Genito-urinary system: 2.5%
- Unknown: 1.9%
- Infectious and parasitic diseases: 1.7%
- Diseases of the digestive system: 1.5%
- Diseases of the blood and blood forming organs .5%
- Congenital Abnormalities: .4%
- Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue: .3%
- Other: .2%
Within the category of mental disorders, the the most common conditions were:
- Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders (28,361 people)
- Intellectual disorders (25,517 people)
- Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders (13,168 people)
If your condition isn’t explicitly listed, you could still qualify for benefits. You’ll want to be diligent about gathering your medical records, regularly see a specialist for treatment, and explain on your application how your condition makes it impossible to work.
Other qualification requirements for SSDI and SSI in Georgia
SSDI qualifications in Georgia
To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must:
- Be under 67 years old.
- 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 in Georgia
To qualify for SSI, you must:
- Having very little in terms of assets like personal or retirement savings (less than $2,000 or less than $3,000 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.
How to apply for disability in Georgia
You can apply for disability benefits with the help of a lawyer, or on your own. Most often, you’ll be required to file the application and supplementary documentation on your work history, your day-to-day functioning, and your treatment history.
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 in Georgia?
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. All told, 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 any requests from SSAimmediately. 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 can help out 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 Georgia?
The length of time it takes to get benefits can vary. Most applicants will be denied at first, and there will be waits from the SSA between stages of the appeal process.
In 2021, to receive an initial decision took an average of 5.5 months (165 days).
The time to process reconsideration requests took 4.9 months (147 days).
The time you wait for your hearing date depends on your SSA hearing office. The average wait in Georgia, between requesting a hearing and appearing at one, is anywhere from 8 months to 15 months.
Adding these up, if you file your paperwork immediately, it takes 1.74 years to get disability benefits in Georgia. Once you add in the time spent sending in supplementary forms, filing for reconsideration, requesting a hearing, and waiting for the judge’s decision—most applicants will spend around two to two and a half years going from application to approval.
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 much does disability pay in Georgia?
SSDI payments in Georgia
The average monthly benefit for disabled workers in Georgia was $1,279.98 per month (according to the most recent SSA data). This is slightly more than 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”
SSI payments in Georgia
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 if you make any additional income (ie. stocks and investments, SNAP benefits, part-time work, etc.), that will be deducted from your monthly check.
The average monthly SSI payment in Georgia is $565.54 per month—just below the national average of $568.13.
SSDI/SSI Attorneys in Georgia: How to Find the right lawyer
When you’re applying, disability lawyers can save you from critical application missteps and save you weeks of paperwork.
At the hearing stage, they’re critical to have in your corner. They 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, and 83% of applicants have legal representation at the hearing stage.
If you’re trying to vet for a disability lawyer on your own, ask these questions before choosing one:
- 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.