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Rhode island disability benefits

Rhode Island Disability Benefits: How to Qualify, Apply, and Get Approved

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published April 20, 2024
Updated April 21, 2024
10 min read
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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.

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In Rhode Island, there are more than 39,000 people who receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). They’re a small but mighty group of people who prove it’s possible to successfully navigate the long and complicated disability application. Now, it’s your turn!

To help Rhode Islanders apply for disability benefits, this guide will explain what you need to know about eligibility rules, the application process, and the size of your potential benefit checks.

What Rhode Island disability program should I apply for?

1. Rhode Island Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI): Rhode Islanders with an injury or illness that interferes with their work can qualify for TDI. That injury or illness must be non-work-related, otherwise, workers’ compensation may be a better fit. 

To qualify, you must meet Rhode Island’s work history requirements. You’re eligible if you earned at least $15,600 during your base period, which is four of the last five calendar quarters you completed before you filed your claim.

If approved, you can receive payments worth 4.62% of your weekly wages during the highest-earning quarter of your base period. There is also a minimum payment of $121 per week and a maximum of $1,007 per week. Payments last for up to 30 weeks, at which point you can apply for the programs below if you still can’t work.

Learn more about Rhode Island temporary disability benefits.

2. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI is a federal disability program that offers benefits for Americans who’ve worked before but have a medical condition that makes it impossible for them to continue. It provides the largest disability checks because the benefits you receive depend on the amount of income you’ve earned and taxes you’ve paid. You’re likely to qualify if you’ve worked and paid taxes for at least five of the last 10 years. SSDI recipients also get Medicare coverage.

3. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): People with limited income and assets can get benefits through SSI. It also supports people who haven’t worked recently or at all, including children with disabilities. Medicaid health insurance is included with SSI benefits.

4. Veterans disability benefits: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers benefits for both active and retired veterans. Those who can’t work because of an injury they sustained during their military service are likely to qualify. You can also get VA benefits while you receive SSDI or SSI benefits. Learn more about how to apply for VA benefits.

5. Long-term or short-term private disability insurance: People usually get private disability policies through their employers, but you can also purchase one directly from an insurance company. If you had your policy before your condition started, you can file a claim. Most policy benefits offer up to 60% of your former paychecks and last for months or years. Check your individual plan details for specifics. If you have a long-term plan, your insurer will likely require you to apply for SSDI anyway.

Most Rhode Islanders with long-term health conditions will qualify for SSDI or SSI, so the rest of this guide will focus on both of these programs. For more on the other programs, try our more detailed guide on the types of disability benefits.

Skip the reading. See which benefits you qualify for in 2 minutes or less.

How to qualify for disability in Rhode Island

You have to prove that you meet all medical and technical requirements before you can qualify for disability benefits in Rhode Island. The medical requirements are the same for SSDI and SSI, but the technical requirements are different.

Medical qualifications for disability benefits

You may medically qualify for disability benefits if you can prove that your disability or medical condition makes it impossible for you to work. You’ll also need documentation from your doctor that they expect your condition to last for more than a year or for the rest of your life.

The SSA also has a compassionate allowance list of severe and terminal conditions that qualify for an expedited approval process.

Qualifying for disability is easier after age 50 because you only have to prove that you can’t continue the types of jobs you’ve already had. If you’re younger than 50, it’s harder to qualify because you have to demonstrate to the SSA that you can’t do any job, even if you retrain.

Technical SSDI qualifications

To qualify for SSDI, you must meet two basic criteria:

  1. You’re 66 years old or younger.

  2. You meet work credit requirements, which means you’ve paid enough taxes into Social Security. You’re likely to qualify if you’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years. Check how many credits you have by creating a free SSA.gov account.

Learn more about eligibility rules for SSDI.

Technical SSI qualifications

To qualify for SSI, you must:

  1. Have little to no income — usually less than about $900 per month.

  2. Have few personal assets, including retirement and personal savings of less than $2,000 for single individuals and $3,000 for married individuals.

Learn more about SSI eligibility requirements.

Conditions that qualify for disability in Rhode Island

Just about any health condition can qualify for Social Security disability benefits if that condition makes it impossible for you to work and is expected to affect your work for a year or longer. That said, some conditions are more common than others.

Recently released data from the SSA shows that Rhode Island residents most commonly receive disability for the following conditions:

  • Mental health conditions: 47.3%

  • Musculoskeletal disorders: 24.7%

  • Neurological (nervous system) disorders: 9.3%

  • Cardiovascular (circulatory system) disorders: 4.6%

  • Respiratory conditions: 2%

  • Cancers (neoplasms): 2.6%

  • Injuries: 2.4%

  • Digestive system disorders: 1.4%

  • Endocrine disorders: 1.3%

  • Genitourinary disorders (kidney disease): 1%

  • Infectious and parasitic diseases: 0.7%

  • Congenital anomalies (birth defects): 0.4%

  • Hematological (blood) disorders: 0.2%

  • Skin conditions: 0.2%

  • Other qualifying conditions: 0.2%

For the Rhode Islanders with mental health conditions, the most common among benefits recipients are:

  • Depression, bipolar disorder, and related disorders: 7,524 people

  • Intellectual disorders: 3,438 people

  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders: 1,995 people

Read more about qualifying for disability for mental health.

How to apply for disability in Rhode Island

To apply for disability, start with the main disability benefits application form. Answer all questions, then move on to the supplemental forms: a work history report and a function report. The work history report explains your previous work experience, while the function report explains how your condition impacts your daily life.

You can apply on your own or you can apply with help from a disability lawyer. The process is complicated, so working with a lawyer can make things much easier for you.

You can also use our guides for advice on applying for disability benefits for your child or applying for a family member or loved one.

How should I prepare my application?

You should prepare your application by completely filling out all the forms and gathering all required documentation for the SSA. Set aside plenty of time (one to two hours) because the application is long and has several components. While your lawyer can help manage all of your forms, here’s what you need to do:

  • Gather your personal records. Make sure you include medical records, treatment forms, bank account information, work history, and contact information for all relevant healthcare providers.

  • Submit the application and all supplemental documents. Before you submit, be sure you didn’t skip any questions and that all of your responses are consistent across forms. The SSA will check for contradictions across your documents. It’s also important that you’re realistic and honest about your symptoms, pain levels, and abilities.

  • Follow up with the SSA right after you submit. You or your lawyer should get in touch with the SSA to ensure they’ve received and are working on your application. This ensures they haven’t lost track of it amid the high number of submissions they receive.

  • Respond to any SSA requests immediately. If the SSA makes a request, you’ll have 10 days to respond. We recommend answering more quickly to avoid additional processing delays.

For more help getting started, here’s our easy-to-follow guide to the disability application.

3 ways to submit your application

To submit your application to the SSA, you can in three ways:

  1. Apply online through the SSA website.

  2. Apply over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or your local office.

  3. Apply in person at your local SSA office.

If you choose not to work with a lawyer, applying in person may help. While you’re there, the SSA staff can explain what the application questions are asking. But they can’t provide personalized advice or strengthen your responses like a lawyer would.

If you do work with a lawyer, they can submit the application and follow up with the SSA for you.

Further reading: How a Lawyer Can Help Your Application

Getting help with the application

A lawyer is the best way to get help with the application because they’re the only ones who can give you personalized legal advice. They can strengthen your application, complete it for you, and correspond with the SSA. This can make the process much easier and boost your chances of winning benefits.

Here at Atticus, we provide free legal advice on filling out your application and finding the right disability lawyer for your case. Fill out our 2-minute disability quiz to get started.

What happens after I apply for disability?

After you apply, the SSA will first confirm that you meet the technical requirements for SSDI, SSI, or both. They’ll also send your application to Disability Determination Services (DDS), which will confirm whether or not you meet the medical requirements. You may need a quick consultative exam with an SSA doctor.

The SSA will then make a final decision on your application. The process takes an average of 6.1 months from the time you submit until you get an answer.

Your chances of getting approved for benefits

Getting approved for disability is difficult. The SSA receives a lot of submissions, and they unfortunately reject most of them. But understanding how the rounds of appeal work can help you move forward even if you don’t get approved at first.

It’s important to know that the SSA rejects about 75% of applicants the first time they apply. Then, applicants can file for reconsideration. The SSA rejects 90% of applications at this point. If you do get rejected, you can request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), during which you can appeal the SSA’s decision.

Many applicants get nervous at the idea of a hearing, but it actually offers your highest chance of approval. More than half of applicants who made their case in front of an ALJ in 2022 won their claim. Applicants who work with a lawyer are also three times more likely to win benefits.

Learn more about the odds of winning your disability appeal.

How long does it take to get disability benefits in Rhode Island?

On average, it takes the SSA more than two years to approve a disability application. Most applications go through multiple rounds of review and appeal, which explains the long wait.

Here’s how it breaks down: 

In 2022, the SSA took an average of 6.1 months (184 days) to make an initial decision on an application. They then took 6.1 more months (183 days) to make a decision on a reconsideration request. After that, the time to award a hearing depends on which SSA hearing office manages the application.

In Rhode Island, applicants wait an average of 13 months to get a hearing. All said and done, Rhode Islanders wait an average of two years and one month from the time they apply until the time they’re approved.

There is only one hearing office in the state of Rhode Island, so your wait times will likely depend on how busy it is. The table below shows the current wait time for that office:

Hearing office

Wait time


13 months

How to speed up the process

Submit your application as soon as you can. The application process can take years, so submitting it quickly will help you get benefits sooner. If the SSA does request more information, respond as soon as possible to prevent additional delays. Your lawyer can also help move your application forward by communicating with the SSA and managing your appeal requests.

Though wait times can be long, your first SSA check will include back pay benefits. These benefits cover the payments you missed out on while waiting for a decision.

Related: How to Find the Best Disability Lawyer Near You

How much are disability benefits in Rhode Island?

How much your disability benefits are depends on whether you receive SSDI or SSI. It is also possible to receive benefits from SSDI and SSI at the same time.

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

monthly check


Average SSDI payments in Rhode Island

In 2024, SSDI has a maximum monthly payment of $3,822. That said, Rhode Islanders on SSDI receive an average of $1,338.57 per month.

Where you live and your specific medical conditions won’t impact your SSDI payment amount. That said, your payment will vary based on your personal income and work history.

To find out how much your benefits will be:

  • Visit the SSA’s mySocialSecurity page.

  • Log in or create an account using your Social Security number (SSN).

  • Scroll down to the section titled “More Benefits.”

For more information, here’s how SSDI payments are calculated.

Average SSI payments in Rhode Island

Rhode Islanders receive an average monthly payment of $626.22 from SSI. That’s a little bit less than the maximum monthly SSI payment of $943.

The SSA uses your current monthly income to determine your benefit amount. They’ll account for the amount of money you receive each month and subtract it from the monthly maximum. If you receive no other money each month, your benefit amount would be $943.

Have more questions? Read more about what counts as income for SSI.

How to find a disability lawyer in Rhode Island

The application process for SSI and SSDI is long and stressful. While it’s possible to take it on alone, you can also consult with a lawyer to help you manage your application and the various appeals. They can communicate with the SSA, file for appeals, and make your case in front of a judge, all of which can take the burden off your shoulders. That’s why applicants who work with lawyers have better chances of getting approved.

If you do look for a Rhode Island disability lawyer, consider the following:

  • Reviews: Positive reviews are a good sign, but also check for patterns in their reviews. Every lawyer loses cases sometimes, but you don’t want someone who past clients found unresponsive or rude.

  • Communication: The application process can take years. Look for a lawyer who will give you peace of mind by communicating clearly and quickly with you and the SSA. That also ensures they won’t subject your case to further delays.

  • Primary area of practice: Disability cases are unique. Lawyers who specialize in legal areas might not have the right expertise to really help you, so look for lawyers who focus on Social Security disability benefits. Don’t be afraid to ask about that during your initial conversation.

  • Location (to an extent): It can be beneficial to work with a lawyer who’s local to the hearing office and knows your local SSA judges. At the same time, a remote lawyer can still help you win SSDI and SSI since rules are the same in every state. Don’t immediately dismiss a good lawyer who will only consult with you over the phone instead of in person.

  • Practice history: Look for a lawyer who has won disability cases before because that’s a good sign they can do it again. Again, disability law is complicated. A less-experienced lawyer isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but you won’t be able to take their case history into account.

A good disability lawyer will boost your odds of approval. But finding one who has the right skills and expertise and will treat you with respect can be daunting. Atticus has been vetting disability lawyers for years and can match you with someone who’s right for your claim. Getting matched is free and you’ll never pay anything until after you win benefits. If you want help finding a lawyer, fill out our disability quiz to get started.

Ready to get benefits today?

Frequently asked questions about benefits in Rhode Island

What qualifies you for disability in Rhode Island?

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 Rhode Island?

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 Rhode Island?

It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Rhode Island. Most people who apply are initially rejected, and need to appeal this decision. If you appeal and go to a hearing, the process takes just over two years on average. Read more: Why It Takes so Long to Get Approved for Disability Benefits

How much does disability pay in Rhode Island?

The average SSDI payment in Rhode Island is $1,338.57 per month. The average SSI payment is $626.22 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 Rhode Island?

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 Rhode Island have a state disability program?

Yes, Rhode Island is one of the five states with its own state disability program. Residents of Rhode Island can apply for temporary disability benefits (TDI) that offer up to 30 weeks of payments. Work injuries aren’t covered, though. If your injury will keep you out of work longer, you can still apply for SSDI and SSI.

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

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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