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If you’re applying for disability benefits in Montana, you’re not alone: 4.3% of Montanans (637,502 people) actively receive benefits from the Social Security Administration—and many more apply each year.
Still, the process can be long and cumbersome. For most applicants, there’s a lot of paperwork, a hearing before a judge, and a considerable wait to get the benefits they’re entitled to.
We’ll go over how to qualify for disability benefits, how to apply, how long it will take, and how to improve your chances of getting approved.
Montana doesn’t have a state-specific disability program — but there are some national and private disability options you might qualify for. Here are the most common:
For the rest of this article, we’re going to focus on SSDI and SSI. These are the programs most people qualify for in Montana, 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).
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 condition types to qualify in Montana were:
Amongst the mental disorders the most common conditions were:
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).
To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must also:
More on eligibility for SSDI here.
To qualify for SSI, you must also:
More on qualifying for SSI here.
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.
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.
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:
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).
While some people have their application accepted at the initial decision stage — most people (about 70%) are rejected, and have to file for reconsideration. About 91% of reconsiderations are also rejected, and applicants request a hearing with an administrative law judge.
At a hearing, about 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.
The average monthly SSDI benefit in Montana was $1,287.91 per month (according to the most recent SSA data). This is less than the nationwide average and well below the maximum possible SSDI benefit for 2023, which is $3,627 per month.
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:
The average monthly SSI payment in Montana is $592.03 per month. The maximum you can receive for SSI nationwide is $914 per month. The SSA will subtract any other regular monthly income from this amount. So if you make any additional income (stocks and investments, SNAP benefits, part-time work, etc.) it will be deducted from your monthly check.
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 6.1 months (184 days).
The time to process reconsideration requests took 6.1 months (183 days).
The time you wait for your hearing depends on your SSA hearing office. In Billings, the average wait time is on the longer side — 11 months.
Adding these up, if you file your paperwork immediately, it takes 1.9 years to get disability benefits in Montana. 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Montana. 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
The average SSDI payment in Montana is $1,287.91 per month. The average SSI payment is $592.03 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.
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.
No, Montana 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 Montana can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.
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