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Washington disability benefits

How to Qualify for Disability Benefits in Washington

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
May 29, 2024  ·  1 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 has helped over 50,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

In Washington state, residents unable to work due to injury or illness have access to federal disability benefit programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs provide monthly payments and healthcare coverage.

Over 300,000 residents of Washington state currently receive assistance through SSDI and SSI. Read on to learn how you can qualify for disability benefits in Washington.


How to qualify for disability in Washington

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses five steps to evaluate whether you’re eligible for disability benefits. These steps include:

  • Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA): First, the SSA determines if you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). If you’re earning more than $1,550 per month in 2024, it means you are engaged in SGA and may not qualify for disability benefits.

  • Severity of impairment: To qualify for disability benefits, your impairment must significantly limit your ability to work. The SSA will determine if you are able to perform basic work activities and if your disability is expected to last for at least 12 months.

  • Meeting SSA’s disability criteria: The SSA uses a list of impairments, known as the Blue Book, to determine which conditions qualify for disability. If your condition is not listed, you will need to provide medical evidence that proves you are unable to work.

  • Past work evaluation: The SSA examines whether your condition allows you to perform the jobs you’ve held in the past despite your current limitations. If you’re deemed able to work at past jobs, they may not approve your application.

  • Ability to adjust to other work: If you’re under 50, the SSA evaluates if you can adjust to other work, considering factors like your medical conditions, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills you may have.

We've helped 4,241 people in Washington with disability benefits.

How to qualify for SSDI

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in Washington, you must meet these criteria:

  • Disability: You must be considered disabled under the federal guidelines.

  • Duration of disability: Your disability must be expected to last at least twelve months or result in death.

  • Work credits: Eligibility for SSDI depends on the number of work credits you have accumulated by working and paying into social security. You need 40 credits to qualify, with 20 earned in the last ten years.


How to qualify for SSI

While SSDI is dependent on past work history, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is designed to help disabled people with limited income and resources:

  • Medical eligibility: If you’re 65 or younger, you must be blind or have a serious medical condition, and be getting treatment for that condition. If you’re over 65, you can receive SSI benefits without proving you have a disability. 

  • Asset limits: Individuals must have less than $2,000 in countable assets, while the limit for couples is $3,000.

  • Income and work restrictions: You must be unable to work, or be working part time at a low-paying job. Your total monthly income must fall below the federal benefit rate, which is currently set at $943 for individuals in 2024.


What conditions qualify for disability in Washington?

In Washington, a variety of medical conditions can qualify you for Social Security disability benefits, provided they significantly impair your ability to work and are expected to last for at least one year. Here are some of the commonly approved conditions in Washington:

  • Mental disorders: 40%

  • Musculoskeletal system disorders: 27%

  • Nervous system disorders: 11%

  • Circulatory system diseases: 5%

  • Injuries: 3%

  • Neoplasms (cancers): 3%


What’s the most common disability in Washington?

Mental disorders are the most common disability category in Washington. These includes:

  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders: 21,063 people affected

  • Intellectual disorders: 13,920 people affected

  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders: 9,429 people affected


Do I need a disability lawyer to apply for benefits in Washington?

While the SSA does not require applicants to work with a disability lawyer, legal representation is strongly recommended. Statistics show that applicants who work with a lawyer are three times more likely to win their case. 

Here’s how a disability lawyer can assist you in the process:

  • Completing the application: A lawyer can make sure your application is accurate and complete, reducing the likelihood of initial rejection due to errors or omissions.

  • Medical documentation: They also help you gather and organize medical records that substantiate your claim.

  • Filing appeals: If your initial claim is denied, which is common, a lawyer can manage the appeals process.

  • Preparation for hearings: An important role a lawyer can play is helping you prepare for what to expect at a disability hearing and strategize on how best to present your case.

  • Representation at hearings: Finally, your lawyer will represent you during the disability hearing and advocate on your behalf.


How much does disability pay in Washington?

In 2024, the maximum you can receive from SSDI is $3,822 per month, while the maximum for SSI is $943 per month. If you and your partner both receive SSI, the maximum joint benefit is $1,415 per month. 

However, the exact amount you receive will depend on your earnings record and level of income and resources. In Washington, the average monthly payment is $1,798 for SSDI and $624 for SSI.

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Get help applying for disability in Washington

The disability benefits application process can be challenging, but you don't have to do it alone. Take our 2-minute quiz to see if you might qualify for benefits. A member of our team will contact you to discuss your case and give you advice on next steps.

We will connect you with an experienced disability lawyer who can help simplify the application process. With Atticus, there are no upfront fees — you only pay your lawyer a one-time fee when they secure your benefits.

Frequently asked questions about benefits in Washington

How do I qualify for disability in Washington?

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 Washington?

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 Washington?

It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Washington. 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 Washington?

The average SSDI payment in Washington is $1,371.51 per month. The average SSI payment is $638.93 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 Washington?

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 Washington have a state disability program?

No, Washington 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 Washington can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.

Related resources:

Washington Disability Benefits

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By Jackie Jakab

SSA Offices in Washington

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By Jackie Jakab

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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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