Virginia Disability Benefits: How To Qualify and How Much You’ll Earn
August 18, 2022 · 8 min read
Why trust us?
Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.
Most people think getting on disability is straightforward: You talk with your doctor, fill out a form, and start receiving the healthcare and financial support you’re entitled to.
We wish it were that easy. But for most Virginians, the process is long (more than two years!) and complex (several stages of paperwork and an appeal).
Still, getting disability benefits in Virginia means (often) permanent access to a monthly check and the healthcare you need to stay well. We’ll go over how you qualify for benefits, how much you might earn once you do, and what you can do to improve your odds of getting approved.
What Virginia disability program should I apply for?
Virginia doesn’t have a short-term, state disability program — but there are some national and private disability options you might qualify for. Here are the most common:
1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI supports Americans who can no longer work due to a medical condition. Most American workers pay into the social security program through their taxes, and the amount you receive from SSDI largely depends on how much you’ve historically paid in. For this reason, your work history — as well as your medical history — determines whether or not you qualify (more on that below).
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. It generally pays out less monthly than SSDI.
3. Long-term or 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 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 and have a medical condition as a result of your service — you should apply for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more about how Atticus can help you with VA benefits.
For the rest of this article, we’re going to focus on SSDI and SSI. These are the programs most people qualify for in Virginia, 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 Virginia
What conditions qualify you for disability in Virginia?
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 Virginia were:
Mental disorders: 34.4%
Diseases of the musculo-skeletal system: 28.9%
DIseases of the nervous system: 9.7%
Diseases of the circulatory system: 7.8%
Diseases of the respiratory system: 2.8%
Endocrine nutritional and metabolic diseases: 2.4%
Diseases of the Genito-urinary system: 2.0%
Diseases of the digestive system: 1.5%
Infectious and parasitic diseases: 1.1%
Congenital Abnormalities: 0.5%
Diseases of the blood and blood forming organs 0.3%
Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue: 0.3%
Amongst the mental disorders the most common conditions were:
Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders: 26,814 people
Intellectual disorders: 21,938 people
Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders: 11,041 people
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).
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 Virginia?
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, 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 SSA immediately. 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 (nearly 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.
The average monthly benefit for disabled workers in Virginia was $1,371.15 per month according to the most recent SSA data. This is slightly more than the nationwide average but well below the maximum possible SSDI benefit of $3,627 per month in 2023.
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:
Create an account using your Social Security number
Scroll down to the section titled “Disability”
SSI payments in Virginia
The maximum you can receive for SSI is $914 per month in 2023, and the average SSI payment in Virginia is $621.51 per month.
To find the value of your monthly disability check, SSA will subtract any other regular monthly income you have from the maximum benefit amount. So if you make any additional income (stocks and investments, part-time work, etc.), that will be deducted from $914 to find your SSI check amount.
How long does it take to get disability benefits in Virginia?
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 Virginia, between requesting a hearing and appearing at one, is anywhere from 7 to 11 months.
Adding these up, if you file your paperwork immediately, it takes 1.61 years to get disability benefits in Virginia. 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 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 to find the right lawyer in Virginia
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.
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 (e.g. I know the judges in this area and they prefer applicants fill out applications alone).
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?
Frequently asked questions about benefits in Virginia
How do I qualify for disability in Virginia?
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 Virginia?
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 Virginia?
It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Virginia. 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 Virginia?
The average SSDI payment in Virginia is $1,371.15 per month. The average SSI payment is $621.51 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.
How should I prepare my disability application in Virginia?
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 Virginia have a state disability program?
No, Virginia 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 Virginia can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.
At the bottom of many websites, you'll find a small disclaimer: "We are not a law firm and are not qualified to give legal advice." If you see this, run the other way. These people can't help you: they're prohibited by law from giving meaningful advice, recommending specific lawyers, or even telling you whether you need a lawyer at all.
There’s no disclaimer here: Atticus is a law firm, and we are qualified to give legal advice. We can answer your most pressing questions, make clear recommendations, and search far and wide to find the right lawyer for you.
Two important things to note: If we give you legal advice, it will be through a lawyer on our staff communicating with you directly. (Don't make important decisions about your case based solely on this or any other website.) And if we take you on as a client, it will be through a document you sign. (No attorney-client relationship arises from using this site or calling us.)