California disability applicants can obtain disability-based benefits from a number of sources, including federal programs, state disability programs provided by the state of California, and in limited instances, from employer disability programs. These programs provide income to disabled persons who are no longer able to participate in substantial gainful activity (work sufficient to provide a livable income) due to a long-term disability.
Social Security Disability Benefits
For Californians with injuries or illness that are expected to last over a year, Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be available. To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked a certain number of years and paid FICA or SECA taxes. To qualify for SSI, you must have low income and assets.
While you apply with the Social Security Administration for both of these programs, California's Disability Determination Service Division (DDSD), an agency under the California Department of Social Services, handles the initial determination on the claim. A disability claims examiner at DDSD gathers your medical records and decides whether you qualify for disability benefits. DDSD has 11 offices in California, including branches in Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles, Fresno, and San Diego.
California State Supplement to SSI
California pays SSI recipients an extra "state supplement," which helps account for the higher cost of living in much of California. The supplement ranges from $171 per month to $407 per month, depending on your living arrangements (whether you live on your own, with or without cooking facilities, or with another person). The Social Security Administration administers the state supplement, so SSI recipients in California get one combined check.
Short-Term Disability Benefits
California is one of just a few states that provide short-term disability insurance (SDI) for those who are unable to work for less than a year due to injury or sickness. The California Employee Development Department (EDD) handles these disability claims. For more information, see our articles on California's short-term disability insurance program.
Employer-Based Disability Benefits
Some employers provide short- and long-term disability coverage for their employees through private insurance companies.
Getting Legal Help with California Disability Benefits
If you have been denied disability benefits (California has a 70% denial rate), you may want to consult with a disability lawyer to get help with your appeal. If you're interesting in hiring a disability lawyer, see our California disability lawyer page.