New Jersey Disability Benefits: State, Federal, and Private Programs in 2023
August 16, 2022 · 9 min read
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The Social Security Administration (SSA) provided disability benefits to more than 200,000 New Jersey residents in 2022. They are proof that you can successfully complete the application and win benefits. To help you through the process, this guide will explain who is eligible for benefits, how the disability application works, and the monthly benefit payments you may receive.
What New Jersey disability program should I apply for?
New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI): New Jersey administers TDI for state residents who have an injury or illness that will keep them out of work for up to 26 weeks. Work injuries don’t qualify though (file a workers' compensation claim instead) and the state will check that you worked at least 20 weeks during your 12-month base period and earned at least $260 per week or $13,000 in combined income. Benefits can last for as long as 26 weeks and are typically 85% of your wages, though the weekly payment is capped at $1,025 for 2023. Learn more about temporary disability insurance in New Jersey.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The federal government provides SSDI for people who’ve worked for years but can’t keep working because of a health condition. If you’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years, you’re more likely to meet SSDI’s requirements. The benefit amount is based on the income you earned during your life and the taxes you’ve paid. They’re the largest of any disability program. SSDI also includes health insurance through Medicare.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is also a federal government program, though SSI is available to people who’ve either never worked or haven’t worked enough to qualify for SSDI — including children and older Americans. Only people with limited income and assets are eligible. SSI also includes health insurance through Medicaid.
Veterans disability benefits: Active duty and retired veterans can seek benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if they can’t work because of an injury they sustained in the line of duty. You can receive SSDI or SSI at the same time as VA benefits. Learn more about how Atticus can help you with VA benefits.
Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: Many people access these plans through their employer, but you can also purchase one directly from an insurance company. You can qualify to file a claim if you had your policy before you needed to stop working. Payments are typically worth up to 60% of your former paychecks and may last months or years. Even if you qualify for long-term private disability benefits, your insurer will likely require you to apply for SSDI as well.
New Jersey residents with disability benefits are most likely to qualify for SSDI or SSI, so the rest of this guide will explain how to apply for either program. You can also reference our guide to the types of disability benefits to get help applying for the other programs.
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How to qualify for disability in New Jersey
You’ll have to meet certain medical and technical criteria to qualify for disability benefits. SSDI and SSI share the same medical criteria, but the technical criteria are different.
Medical qualifications for disability benefits
The medical requirements for SSDI and SSI have two parts: You must have a disability or medical condition that leaves you unable to work, and your condition should be expected to affect you for at least a year. The SSA will need proof from your healthcare providers, including medical documentation.
You can expedite the medical portion of the application process if your condition is on SSA’s compassionate allowance list, which includes severe and terminal conditions.
The SSA will also consider your age. The eligibility requirements are more lenient for applicants over the age of 50. Applicants who are at least 50 only need to prove that their conditions make them unable to continue the kinds of work they’ve previously done. Applicants under 50 have to prove that their condition makes it impossible to do any type of work — even if they retrain.
Technical SSDI qualifications
To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:
You’re 66 years old or younger (below your full retirement age).
You have enough work credits, meaning you’ve paid enough taxes into Social Security. You’re more likely to qualify if you’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years. To see how many work credits you have, create a free account on SSA.gov.
There are a number of steps to apply for disability. First complete the Social Security disability benefits application. Then you’ll need to fill out supplemental forms, like a work history report, which includes information about your work experience, and a function report, which includes details about how your condition impacts your daily life. The SSA may request more forms or medical information as they process your application.
You can fill these forms out on your own or you can get help from a disability lawyer to complete the application.
Make sure you set aside plenty of time to complete the application — it can take one to two hours (or more). That’s in addition to the time you need to collect the required medical documents and records. A lawyer can greatly help with the application, but there are some key steps to understand:
Prepare all your personal records. Gather medical records, treatment forms, bank account information, work and income history, and contact information for your healthcare providers. The more documentation you have the better.
Make sure to fill out the whole application. You may encounter processing delays if you haven’t answered every question or completed every form.
Answer questions honestly and consistently. The SSA will double-check that your medical and supplemental forms align with the responses in your application. Being honest about your condition and how it affects you — including pain levels and symptoms — will help you avoid inconsistencies.
Follow up with the SSA after you submit. Get in touch with the SSA to make sure they received your application and are processing it. Your lawyer can handle this for you.
Respond to SSA requests immediately. You usually have 10 days to respond to the SSA, but following up more quickly is a great way to prevent delays.
Applying online may seem like the easiest option, but applying in person can be helpful if you apply on your own. The SSA employees can explain what the application questions are asking and clarify anything else about the process. Keep in mind, though, that only a lawyer can give you personalized legal advice, like whether your answers are strong or if you should focus on different details.
Many applicants want help with the application. Working with a lawyer is your best option. A lawyer can strengthen your responses, complete the application for you, stay in touch with the SSA, and represent you at any court hearings. Disability lawyers also don’t charge anything until after you win benefits, meaning you can get help right away but won’t have to worry about the bill until later. (If you don’t win benefits you don’t have to pay anything.)
We at Atticus are a law firm, which means we can provide advice on filling out your application and finding the right lawyer for your case. To get help today, fill out our free 2-minute disability benefits quiz.
What happens after I apply for disability?
Once you submit your application, the SSA will process your application and verify whether you meet the technical requirements for SSDI or SSI. Your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) will complete its own review to confirm that you’re medically eligible. You may also need to schedule a phone interview with the SSA or get a quick consultative exam with a DDS doctor.
This process may sound quick but as of early 2023, applicants waited an average of six months for an initial decision on their application.
Your chances of getting approved for benefits
Your application will most likely go through a few rounds of denial and appeal before you receive the SSA’s final decision. Your chances of getting approved actually increase after a few appeals.
The SSA rejects 70% of first-time applications. At that point, you can file for reconsideration, but the SSA rejects 90% of those reviews. Then you can appeal for a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).
A hearing does sound intimidating, but appearing in front of a judge is actually your best chance of getting approved. More than half of disability hearings end with winning benefits. You’re also three times more likely to win benefits if you work with a lawyer at the hearing stage.
How long does it take to get disability benefits in New Jersey?
As of March 2023, New Jersey residents waited an average of 29 months — almost two and a half years — from the time they applied until the time they were approved. This is a couple of months longer than the average wait in the United States.
The long wait time comes down to the multiple rounds of appeal most people have to navigate. Applicants in New Jersey can expect the following average wait times for each round:
Initial decision: 6.1 months (184 days)
Reconsideration decision: 6.1 months (183 days)
Wait time for a hearing: 17 months (plus 1-3 months to get a decision)
Keep in mind, wait times vary by hearing office. Your actual wait time will depend on which hearing office handles your application. There are three hearing offices in New Jersey, and the wait time for each is below.
Wait time for a hearing
How to speed up the process
There is no way to speed up the process, but there are some important ways to prevent delays. You can keep your application on track by submitting your application as soon as it's complete, then following up with the SSA right away. Make sure to stay on top of any additional requests from the SSA. Your lawyer can also move your application forward by contacting the SSA as needed and overseeing your appeals.
The good news is that if you do get approved for disability, you’ll be compensated for the wait. Your first disability check will include back pay benefits that cover the amount of benefits you would’ve received if you’d been approved earlier instead of having to appeal and wait.
Disability benefit amounts vary depending on which program you qualify for. TDI will consider your pre-injury income, SSDI is based on your income and tax history, and your SSI payment is based on your current monthly income. It’s also possible to receive SSDI and SSI benefits at the same time.
Temporary disability payments in New Jersey
New Jersey short-term disability benefits pay residents 85% of their average former weekly wage. This is capped at a maximum weekly benefit of $1,025 in 2023 — meaning the most you could earn is $26,650 over the program’s 26 weeks.
The maximum monthly payment for SSI is $914 in 2023, though New Jersey benefits recipients have an average monthly payment of $631.99.
The SSA will determine your SSI benefit check amount by subtracting any money you have coming in each month from the maximum possible benefit. That means that if you have no other income, your monthly SSI payment will be $914.
The SSDI and SSI application is rigorous, but a lawyer can streamline the process. Your lawyer can help you apply, file your appeals, correspond with the SSA, and handle your court hearings. Not only does this take the stress out of the application process, but it’s also why applicants with lawyers are more likely to get approved.
As you look for a New Jersey disability lawyer, consider the following factors:
Reviews: Positive reviews are a good sign, but keep an eye out for patterns in the negative reviews. A few bad reviews are natural but similar, negative feedback may be a red flag. A lawyer can’t win every case, but they should always be attentive and treat you with respect.
Communication: Don’t worry if a lawyer won’t be in touch during the long processing and waiting periods, but they should be in touch and respond quickly to both you and the SSA as your application moves forward.
Primary area of practice: There are many great lawyers, but look for a lawyer who specializes in disability benefits. This is important because Social Security disability law is unique and you want someone who has years of experience working with the SSA.
Location (somewhat): It can be helpful to work with a local lawyer who is familiar with the judges in your hearing office, but Social Security disability rules are also the same in every state. Many people consult over the phone — especially since the start of the pandemic — and a remote lawyer can still help you win your case.
Atticus can help you find an experienced lawyer who will make your case a priority. Start with our free disability benefits questionnaire and we’ll find you a qualified match. You’ll still get to choose whether you work with our lawyers and you won’t pay anything until after you win benefits.
Ready to get benefits today?
Frequently asked questions about disability in New Jersey
How do I qualify for disability in New Jersey?
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.
What conditions qualify for disability in New Jersey?
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.
How long does it take to get approved for disability in New Jersey?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in New Jersey. 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
How much does disability pay in New Jersey?
The average SSDI payment in New Jersey is $1,505.33 per month. The average SSI payment is $631.99 per month. What you’ll earn depends on your income, or the amount you’ve historically paid into the Social Security program. Read more on what amount you can expect.
How should I prepare my disability application in New Jersey?
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.
Does New Jersey have a state disability program?
Yes, New Jersey is one of the five states with its own state disability program. Residents can apply for Temporary Disability Insurance, which offers payments for up to 26 weeks. Work injuries aren’t covered, though. If your injury will keep you out of work longer, you can still apply for SSDI and SSI. Read more about the difference between SSDI and SSI here.
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Jackie 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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