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Louisiana Disability Benefits: How Much Do They Pay, and How Long Will It Take?

Jackie Jakab, Attorney
By Jackie Jakab, Attorney

Our clients in Louisiana have a lot of questions about disability benefits. 

The most common: Is it hard to qualify for disability? Do you need a lawyer? How much do you receive if you win?

Our short answers: How hard or easy the process is depends on your page and condition. You probably need a lawyer. And the recipients receive up to $180,000 in lifetime benefits

Still have questions? We still have answers. Read on to learn more about how to apply for disability in Louisiana, which benefit programs you should apply for, what conditions qualify, and how to find the right lawyer. 

What disability programs are there in Louisiana?

Louisiana doesn’t have a state-based disability benefits program—but there are some national and private disability options Louisianans can qualify for.

1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): 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. The program is run through the Social Security Administration, and is thought of like a retirement benefit. If you have to “retire early” due to a disability, you can access some of the funds you’ve paid into the program over your years of work. 

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 in Louisiana: 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. 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 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 Louisiana, 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 Louisiana

What medical conditions qualify you for disability in Louisiana?

Any medical condition that prevents you from working can qualify for disability. Generally speaking, your condition qualifies if it lasts longer than one year or could potentially lead to death. 

You cannot get SSDI benefits if your condition will improve, such that it no longer prevents you from working, within the year.

Amongst these the most common conditions to qualify in Louisiana were:

  • Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissues (57,651  people)
  • Diseases of the nervous systems and sense organs (15,760 people)
  • Intellectual disorders (19,950 people)
  • Depressive bi-polar and related disorders (16,194 people)
  • Circulatory system conditions (15,721 people)
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders (7,353 people)
  • Other mental disorders (5,372 people), 

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

  • Mental disorders: 30.5%
  • Injuries 3.8%
  • Neoplasms: 2.6%
  • Endocrine nutritional and metabolic diseases: 2.4%
  • Infectious and parasitic diseases: 1.3%
  • Congenital Abnormalities: .4%
  • Disease of the blood and blood forming organs .4%
  • Diseases of the circulatory system: 8.9%
  • Diseases of the digestive system: 1.3%
  • Diseases of the Genito-urinary system: 1.9%
  • Diseases of the musculo-skeletal system: 32.5%
  • Diseases of the nervous system: 8.9%
  • Diseases of the respiratory system: 2.3%
  • Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue: .3%
  • Other: .2%
  • Unknown: 2.3%

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. 

Other requirements for SSDI and SSI

SSDI qualifications in Louisiana

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 Louisiana

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 Louisiana

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?

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), gather your medical records, 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 Louisiana? 

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 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 Louisiana, between requesting a hearing and appearing at one, is anywhere from 10 months to a year. 

Office

Wait time

Alexandria

12 months

Metairie

12 months

New Orleans

11 months

Shreveport

10 months

On average, it takes 1.79 years to get disability benefits in Louisiana—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 much does disability pay in Louisiana?

SSDI payments in Louisiana

The average monthly benefit for SSDI recipients in Louisiana was $1,221.82 per month (according to the most recent SSA data). This is slightly less 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 Louisiana

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 Louisiana is ​​$577.24 per month—just above the national average of $568.13. 

SSDI/SSI Attorneys in Louisiana: 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:

  • What is your primary area of practice? Do you take on other types of cases, or just SSDI/SSI? If they specialize in disability law, that’s a good sign they’ll have some experience with cases like yours. 
  • How do you reach out to/communicate with your clients? Do you email them, call them or text them? Having a lawyer that’s available, keeps you in the loop, and answers your questions is critical. Make sure you can reach out and get the insight you need from them. 
  • How do you prepare for a hearing? Bad lawyers often show up on the day of the hearing with no preparation. Good lawyers meet with the client at least once or twice before the hearing and go over the case.
  • Do you fill out the application for me by yourself? Invested lawyers, who understand the disability process well, generally fill out the application for you. If they don’t, they’ll have a good reason why (ie. I know the judges in this area and they prefer applicants fill out applications solo). 

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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