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Wisconsin disability benefits

How to Apply for Disability Benefits in Wisconsin

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published June 11, 2024
Updated June 13, 2024
2 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

If you’re a Wisconsinite who can’t work due to an illness or disability, you might qualify for federal disability benefits programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), nearly 170,000 Wisconsin residents qualify for SSI, SSDI, or both. Learn more about how to apply for disability benefits programs in the Badger State so you can get the financial support you need. 

Disability benefits in Wisconsin

Wisconsin does not offer a statewide disability program. However, if you’re a sick or injured Wisconsinite, you may qualify for Social Security benefits through the federal government or a private insurance company. As a Wisconsin resident, your options include:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance: SSDI is geared toward those who are unable to work long term due to a disability, offering monthly payments and Medicare. To qualify, you must have previously worked and paid taxes.

  2. Supplemental Security Income: If you have a little to no work history, very little income, and few assets, you might be eligible for SSI, a similar federal program that pays monthly benefits and includes Medicaid.

  3. Veterans disability benefits: If you’re a veteran with an military-related injury that prevents you from working, consider receiving benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

  4. Private disability insurance: If you were covered by long-term or short-term disability insurance by an employer or private insurance company before your injury or illness began, check with your provider to see if you have access to disability benefits. 

Get personalized advice about your options.

Should I apply for disability benefits?

When you’re weighing whether or not to apply for disability benefits, here are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I still working? If so, then you should not apply. However, if your medical condition is impeding your ability to work, getting approved for disability benefits could be life-changing.

  2. Will I be able to work soon? If you expect your condition to improve, and you’ll be able to work full time within a year, then it’s best not to apply.

  3. Am I at full retirement age? You cannot receive Social Security Disability Benefits and full retirement benefits at the same time. If you’re eligible for retirement, you’ll receive those benefits instead of SSDI.

Applying for disability benefits is an involved process, making whether or not to do it a big decision. Read more about these reasons to apply if you’re still wondering whether disability benefits are worth it.

SSDI vs. SSI: What’s the difference?

If you’re struggling to distinguish Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from each other, you’re not alone, as the two programs share similarities. Both are government programs that provide monthly payments to people who can’t work because of a non-work-related injury or illness, and both provide health insurance coverage.

However, there are key differences between SSDI and SSI. The federal programs differ in the following  areas:

  • Work history: SSDI is for people who have worked at least five out of the last 10 years and have paid taxes into Social Security. Meanwhile, SSI is for people with little to no work history and very low income and few assets.

  • Payment amounts: SSDI payments depend on the amount you paid into Social Security taxes. In contrast, the amount of SSI benefits you receive depends on your assets and income level. Typically, monthly SSI payments are lower than SSDI benefits.

  • Healthcare: SSDI recipients receive Medicare, while SSI beneficiaries receive Medicaid.

How to apply for disability in Wisconsin

There are three ways you can apply for Social Security disability benefits in Wisconsin, including:

  1. Online. Visit SSA.gov, click “Create Account,” and verify your identity. You can then download the application and fill it out before uploading and submitting it online.

  2. Over the phone. You can call the SSA national number at 1-800-772-1213 or contact an office near you. 

  3. In person. An agent at your nearest SSA office can help you complete your application. However, they are not allowed to provide legal advice. For more support, call Atticus to connect with a lawyer who can help you navigate the process every step of the way.

It’s normal for the SSA to reject your application the first time you apply. Although the SSA accepts some people right away, it denies nearly 70% of first-time applicants, who must file for reconsideration. The SSA often denies reconsiderations as well (about 91% of the time), necessitating that those 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 an appeal

Do I need a disability lawyer to apply?

The SSA does not require applicants to hire a disability lawyer, but it’s a good idea to have one. A disability lawyer can help you with every step of the application process, from completing paperwork to navigating the appeals process. A lawyer can help you:

  • Fill out the disability application

  • Gather medical records

  • File for an appeal

  • Prepare you for a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge

  • Represent you at a disability hearing

Match with a top disability lawyer in Wisconsin

Can I work while on disability in Wisconsin?

Working while applying for or currently receiving disability benefits is risky. Working too often or making too much money according to the SSA’s stipulations could indicate to the government that you no longer need benefits. As far as the SSA is concerned, disability benefits are reserved for those who are too sick or too injured to work. 

However, working part time might be an option, so long as you provide the right information to the SSA. The rules vary drastically depending on what disability benefits program you qualify (or hope to qualify) for, so click the link to learn more about the work limitations for SSI and SSDI.

Get help with your disability application

If you’re applying for disability benefits in Wisconsin, Atticus can help. There are no upfront costs to working with us — you only pay your lawyer if they help you win benefits, which consists of a one-time lawyer fee, capped at 25% of your back pay.

Take our two-minute quiz, and afterward, a member of our team can offer personalized advice about your disability claim plus connect you with a lawyer if you’d like. 

Frequently asked questions about disability in Wisconsin

What qualifies you for disability in Wisconsin?

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 Wisconsin?

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 Wisconsin?

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

The average SSDI payment in Wisconsin is $1,340.21 per month. The average SSI payment is $626.81 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 Wisconsin?

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 Wisconsin have a state disability program?

No, Wisconsin does not have a state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have a state program. Residents of Wisconsin can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.

Related resources:

Wisconsin Disability Benefits

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

SSA Offices in Wisconsin

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
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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