Knowing the right way to apply for disability benefits in Arizona greatly increases your chances of receiving them. The process can be complicated. Here are the different types of disability benefits in Arizona, what they could mean to you, and how to get started applying.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
What are the different types of disability benefits in Arizona?
There are a number of disability benefits for which you may be eligible. State and federal programs are different but can impact each other.
The Social Security Administration runs two federal disability programs. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays monthly benefits to adults and children who are disabled, have limited resources, and have never worked or have not worked enough over their lifetime to qualify for disability benefits. Another federal benefit – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – is available for people who have worked long enough to qualify and have paid Social Security taxes over the years.
To simplify this, think of it this way: SSI is for people who have not been able to work enough to accumulate insurance credits, and SSDI is for workers who have a qualifying disability. SSI is a need-based program, and SSDI is funded through payroll taxes.
In Arizona, other benefits may be available. These state and federal programs work together with privately-funded insurance programs to provide support for Arizona residents.
Housing assistance may be available for long-term or permanently disabled citizens in Arizona.
Short-term disability insurance payments generally last anywhere from nine weeks to one year to cover a temporary loss of income. Note that short-term disability is not a governmental program. It’s privately funded, usually through your employer. Talk to your employer to see if they offer it.
Long-term disability pays you a portion of your income for a longer period of time. You should know that long-term disability is also privately funded. Talk to your employer to see if it’s available to you. Unlike with workers compensation, your disability does not necessarily need to be work-related. Long-term disability may pay between two and five years, or it may end at a specific age.
Do I qualify for disability in Arizona?
Applying for disability benefits does not automatically mean you will be approved. There are a variety of factors that can disqualify you, and the process can be complicated. The Social Security Administration provides a benefits eligibility screening tool and a disability planner to help.
Locating free legal assistance to guide you from the beginning can help you understand what you may be eligible for and what to expect.
How much does AZ disability pay?
The Social Security Administration awards SSI benefits based on its belief that the cost of basic needs is the same for people in similar circumstances, regardless of where a person lives. This monthly rate is called a Federal Benefit Rate (FBR).
Every year, the government adjusts the FBR to account for a rise in the cost of living over time. This rate is the highest amount a person can receive. Your benefit may be lower, depending on your situation.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is calculated in a different way. Your maximum eligible benefit is based on how long you have worked and how much you have paid into Social Security through payroll taxes. The Social Security Administration uses a complex formula to determine your monthly benefits. This amount can be modified if you have other disability benefits or income.
How to apply for disability benefits in Arizona
You can apply for SSDI benefits online. After you finish the online process, a Social Security representative will contact you for any other information they need. In some cases, you can also apply for SSI online.
In either case, you can also schedule an appointment with your local Social Security office. For both, and for other benefits you may be eligible for, you will need the following:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship (i.e., birth certificate or passport)
- Basic family information (how many children, spouse’s name, etc.)
- Documentation of your qualifying disability (including medical records)
- Information about family income, including spousal income or support (W-2 forms or tax records)
- Any workman’s compensation claims you have filed or intend to file in relation to your disability, when applicable
It can take anywhere from two months to well over a year to get approved for disability benefits, and you may be required to undergo a waiting period for the first months after your disability.
While the information in this article is up to date as of the end of 2018, do note that these benefit rules may change over time. Always visit the state or federal websites for the most up-to-date information.
Where can I get help applying for Arizona disability benefits?
Understanding how to apply for disability benefits in Arizona is just the first step in the process. Since each case is complex and can take months to get approved, it is important to seek help with the process. If your initial request is denied and you want to appeal the decision, this is even more important.
The Arizona Legal Center can help you understand the forms, eligibility criteria, and waiting periods you might experience. If your benefits are denied, we can provide guidance about appeals, too.
For more information on how to apply for disability benefits in Arizona and to get support through the process, get in touch with ALC today. We are your center for free Arizona legal aid.
Disclaimer: The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.