If you are a Washington resident who is unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the federal government or private insurance.
Disability benefits can provide you with monthly income and medical coverage to help you cope with your condition and meet your basic needs.
However, applying for disability benefits can be a complex and lengthy process that requires a lot of documentation and evidence.
In this article, we will explain how to apply for disability benefits in Washington state, what programs are available, and what factors affect your chances of approval.
What disability programs are available in Washington state?
There are two main types of disability benefits that you can apply for in Washington state:
Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and have similar medical criteria, but they differ in terms of eligibility and payment amount.
SSDI is a program that pays benefits to workers who have paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years and have become disabled before reaching their full retirement age. The amount of SSDI benefits depends on your average earnings and work history, and can range from $800 to $3,000 per month.
You can also receive Medicare coverage after 24 months of receiving SSDI benefits.
To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least five out of the last 10 years before becoming disabled. You must also have a severe impairment that prevents you from doing any substantial gainful activity (SGA) for at least 12 months or is expected to result in death.
SGA is defined as earning more than $1,310 per month in 2021 (or $2,190 for blind individuals).
SSI is a program that pays benefits to low-income individuals who are aged, blind, or disabled, regardless of their work history. The amount of SSI benefits is based on the federal benefit rate (FBR), which is $794 per month for an individual and $1,191 for a couple in 2021.
However, your actual payment may be lower depending on your income, resources, and living arrangements. You can also receive Medicaid coverage and other state supplements if you are eligible for SSI.
To qualify for SSI, you must have a severe impairment that meets the same criteria as SSDI, and you must also have limited income and resources.
Your income includes any money you earn from work, pensions, Social Security, or other sources, and your resources include any cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, property, or other assets that you own.
The income and resource limits for SSI are $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple in 2021.
How to apply for disability benefits in Washington state?
You can apply for disability benefits in Washington state online, by phone, or in person.
The application process involves filling out several forms and providing information about your personal, medical, and work history.
You will also need to submit medical records, test results, treatment notes, and other evidence that support your claim.
The SSA will review your application and determine if you meet the eligibility and medical requirements for disability benefits. This process can take several months or even years, depending on the complexity of your case and the backlog of claims.
You can apply for disability benefits online through the SSA website. This is the most convenient and fastest way to apply, as you can complete the application at your own pace and save your progress.
You can also upload your supporting documents electronically or mail them to the SSA.
To apply online, you will need to create a My Social Security account and follow the instructions on the website. You can apply for SSDI, SSI, or both programs online, depending on your eligibility.
One can also apply for disability benefits by phone by calling the SSA toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213.
You will need to schedule an appointment with a representative who will help you complete the application over the phone. You will also need to mail or fax your supporting documents to the SSA.
The phone application can take about an hour or more, depending on the complexity of your case.
You can apply for SSDI, SSI, or both programs by phone, depending on your eligibility.
You can also apply for disability benefits in person by visiting your local Social Security office.
There will be a need to make an appointment in advance by calling the SSA toll-free number or using the online locator tool.
You will need to bring your supporting documents with you to the office. The in-person application can take several hours, depending on the availability of the staff and the complexity of your case.
You can apply for SSDI, SSI, or both programs in person, depending on your eligibility.
What factors affect your chances of approval?
Applying for disability benefits in Washington state can be challenging, as the approval rate is lower than the national average. According to the SSA statistics, only about 30% of initial applications and 12% of reconsiderations (the first level of appeal) are approved in Washington state, compared to 35% and 14% nationwide.
However, the approval rate increases to 48% at the hearing level (the second level of appeal), which is slightly higher than the national average of 45%.
There are several factors that can affect your chances of approval, such as:
- The severity and duration of your impairment
- The consistency and credibility of your medical evidence
- The opinion of your treating physician and other medical experts
- The impact of your impairment on your ability to work and perform daily activities
- Your age, education, and work experience
- The availability of other jobs that you can do in the national economy
- The quality of your application and representation
To increase your chances of approval, you should:
- Apply as soon as possible after becoming disabled
- Provide complete and accurate information on your application
- Submit all relevant medical records and evidence that support your claim
- Follow your doctor’s orders and treatment plan
- Cooperate with the SSA and respond to their requests promptly
- Appeal if your claim is denied
- Hire a disability lawyer or advocate to help you with your claim
How to find a disability lawyer or advocate in Washington state?
Hiring a disability lawyer or advocate can greatly improve your chances of approval, as they can help you with every aspect of your claim, such as:
- Filling out the application and appeal forms
- Gathering and submitting medical records and evidence
- Communicating with the SSA and other parties
- Preparing you for the hearing and questioning the witnesses
- Negotiating a favorable settlement or decision
A disability lawyer or advocate can also represent you on a contingency basis, which means that you don’t have to pay them unless you win your case. The SSA regulates the fees that disability lawyers and advocates can charge, which are usually 25% of your back pay or $6,000, whichever is less.
To find a disability lawyer or advocate in Washington state, you can:
- Ask for a referral from your doctor, family, friends, or other sources
- Search online for disability lawyers or advocates in your area
- Use the online directory of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR)
- Contact the Washington State Bar Association or the Washington State Disability Law Project for legal assistance
READ MORE: How to Find a Good Disability Lawyer
Applying for disability benefits in Washington state can be a daunting task, but it can also be a rewarding one if you are approved.
Disability benefits can provide you with financial and medical support that can improve your quality of life and help you cope with your condition.
However, you need to be prepared for a long and complex process that requires a lot of documentation and evidence. You also need to be aware of the eligibility and medical criteria that the SSA uses to evaluate your claim.
You can increase your chances of approval by applying as soon as possible, providing complete and accurate information, submitting all relevant medical records and evidence, appealing if your claim is denied, and hiring a disability lawyer or advocate to help you with your claim.
We hope that this article has given you some useful information and guidance on how to apply for disability benefits in Washington state. If you have any questions or need any assistance, please feel free to visit our website for more guidance.