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How to Get Disability Benefits in Michigan

Jackie Jakab, Attorney
By Jackie Jakab, Attorney

If you are unable to work due to a serious medical condition or illness, disability benefits can get you the healthcare and financial compensation you deserve. 

Understanding the Michigan disability benefits requirements and options is an important step in gaining control over your financial situation. 

We’ll explore the types of benefits, what’s unique about state disability benefits in Michigan, and how to get the process started. 

What disability benefit programs are there in Michigan?

The good news is that you have options for disability in the state of Michigan. You just need to determine what type of disability you qualify for.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are both federal disability programs through the Social Security Administration (SSA) that support Americans who can’t work due to a medical condition. 

Both programs consider someone “disabled” if you cannot work for at least a year because of a serious medical condition.

While you use the same application for both programs, the qualifications and benefit amounts differ. With SSDI, your eligibility is based on your medical condition and your work history. For SSI, you need to have very limited income and assets. 

For most people SSDI leads to a bigger monthly payout than SSI. SSDSI also gets you access to Medicare, and SSI gives you access to Medicaid. 

If you meet eligibility for SSDI and SSI, you should apply for both. 

The reason for this is because:

  • There’s a small chance you receive more money monthly (More likely for people who have worked very little in the last 10 years).
  • There are waiting periods for healthcare benefits for SSDI but not for SSI. Even if you are awarded benefits for SSDI, you may have to wait for Medicare access. Medicare access under SSI kicks in immediately. 

State Disability Assistance (SDA)

You can also apply for Michigan state disability, referred to as State Disability Assistance (SDA). You’ll still need to file for SSDI and/or SSI in order to receive state benefits—but state benefits may be accessible earlier. 

There are income limits to qualify—and the amount you receive monthly is dependent on how much other countable income you have. Your funds will be accessible via a state Bridges card—which can only be spent on certain necessities. More on that program here

Long-term/Short-term disability benefits

If you bought private disability insurance, or received it through your employer, you can file for payments from your insurer under the policy's terms. Short-term policies usually pay 80% of your past earnings for 3-6 months. Long-term policies generally pay 50-60% of your past earnings for many years. 

The exact terms would depend on your policy, and you had to have purchased your policy before you became disabled. 

VA 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 Michigan state disability assistance). Or, they’re advantageous to apply for in conjunction with other programs (like VA benefits).  

Qualifications for disability in Michigan:

There are many nuances that come with SSDI and SSI qualifications. 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. 

SSI qualifications

To qualify for SSI, you must meet the same criteria as you would for SSDI, plus:

  • 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)

What medical conditions qualify you for disability in Michigan?

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

The most common conditions that result in disability benefits in Michigan include:

  • Mental disorders (34.8%)
  • Diseases of the musculo-skeletal system (31.2%)
  • Diseases of the nervous system (9.7%)
  • Diseases of the circulatory system (6.5%)
  • Injuries (3.2%)
  • Neoplasms (2.8%)
  • Diseases of the respiratory system (2.7%)
  • Endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases (2.4%)
  • Unknown( 2.1%)
  • Diseases of the genito-urinary system (1.4%)
  • Diseases of the digestive system (1.3%)
  • Infectious and parasitic diseases (1.3%)
  • Infectious and parasitic diseases (.6%)
  • Congenital abnormalities (.4%)
  • Congenital Abnormalities (.4%)
  • Disease of the blood and blood forming organs (.3%_
  • Other (.2%)

This isn’t an exhaustive list of all conditions covered by SSDI and SSI, 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. 

How to apply for disability in Michigan

Applying for disability in the state of Michigan is the same as it is in every state. 

While this consistency is helpful, the documentation and information you’ll need to provide in your application can get overwhelming. If you choose one, a disability attorney will help you with your application and submit it on your behalf. 

How do I submit an initial application? 

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

How should I prepare my application?

We wish we could tell you that submitting an application for disability is as easy as visiting the website and making a few clicks or answering a few questions.  It takes most people hours to submit an application because of the support 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. 
  • 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 this paper out for you (the right way), and follow up with the social security administration. (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 Michigan? 

Set your expectations on a timeline for when you will receive any money from the SSA. It can take several months to a year or more to get a judgment on your claim. 

To receive an initial decision takes an average of 5.3 months (161 days).

The time to process your reconsideration takes 4.9 months (147 days).

The time you wait for your hearing date depends on your SSA hearing office. The average wait in Michigan is around 9 months (272 days). 

Here’s the breakdown based on your regional office:

Office

Wait time

Detroit

9.5 months

Flint

10 months

Grand Rapids

9 months

Lansing

9 months

Livonia

9 months

Mt Pleasant

8 months

On average, it takes 1.5 years to get disability benefits in Michigan—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 (SSDI) pay in Michigan?

The average monthly benefit for SSDI recipients in Michigan was $1,305.97 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:

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

How much does SSI pay in Michigan?

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. SNAP benefits, WIC, part-time work, etc.)

In Michigan the average SSI recipient receives 590.80 per month—above the national average of $568.13. 

Disability attorneys of Michigan: Finding 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. 

If you’re looking for a Michigan 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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