Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, SSD, or Title II) is a program that offers monthly payments to people who have worked long enough—and paid taxes on those earnings—and who can no longer work due to disability. SSDI protects over 156 million workers, with 677,394 beneficiaries in California, as of December 2019.

Since the federal government runs SSDI, there are no differences across states for eligibility, and benefits should stay the same if you were to move to another state.

Eligibility for SSDI in California

There are nation-wide criteria for qualifying that California also abides by:

Having a Qualifying Disability that Prevents You from Substantial Work.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict disability standard, with five different areas they look at, as determined by their bluebook.

The California Department of Social Services website states that to qualify for SSDI, the disability must be a physical and/or mental condition that:

  • Has lasted, or is expected to last, for a minimum of 12 months, or death is expected to result from the disability
  • Prevents the person from being able to perform any substantial work, also referred to as substantial gainful activity (SGA).

“Substantial work” in 2021 means earnings of $1,310 per month (up from $1,260 in 2020). Any income below this cap still allows you to be eligible for SSDI.

Having Enough Work Credit

You must have worked for a long enough time, recently enough, and paid taxes on your earnings to be insured. By working and paying Social Security taxes, you can earn work credits. The amount of earnings required to earn a credit changes each year. In 2020, earning $1,410 was needed to earn one work credit. To qualify for SSDI, the number of work credits required varies by age, and so the number of years you are required to have worked also varies.

Be Younger Than Full Retirement Age

You must be under the age of 65 to qualify for SSDI. If you do qualify for SSDI, you will automatically qualify for Medicare after receiving SSDI benefits for 2 years.

SSDI Benefits in California

SSDI benefits are unique to each person and based on your average lifetime earnings, with a maximum benefit amount that is adjusted each year. In 2020, the cap was $3,011; for 2021, the cap is $3,148. If you are eligible for SSDI, your benefits will not take into account the severity of your disability or how much income you currently have.

Most SSDI recipients receive between $800 and $1,800 per month—the average for 2021 is $1,277.

Filing for Disability in California

You can apply for SSDI in three different ways:

  1. Apply online
  2. Apply over the phone
  3. Apply in person at your local Social Security office. You can find your local office here, or see below for all California hearing offices.

The application will go to the Disability Determination Service Division (DDSD), a state agency under the California Department of Social Services. There, a disability claims examiner will make the medical determination as to whether you qualify for disability benefits.

The process for applying for SSDI or appealing a decision is cumbersome. Contact a Social Security Disability advocate or representative today.

Approval rates are not high across the nation, and California’s approval rate is about the same as the national average. If you are denied benefits, you can request that DDSD reconsider your claim. If DDSD denies you again, you can then request an appeal hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

SSDI Statistics in California

As of October 2020, the California average for winning a disability hearing is 46%.

SSDI applications generally take 3-5 months to process, without accounting for further delays experienced if your SSDI application is rejected for any reason and you decide to go through the multi-step appeals process.

The average wait time for an SSDI appeal hearing is 14.5 months. See statistics for individual hearing offices in California here.

In 2020, California’s SSDI approval rate is about the same as the national average:

Approval Rate by Stage

StageCalifornia AverageNational Average
Initial Application39.4%37%
Reconsideration Review14.4%13%
Appeal Hearing46%45%

Related Benefits in California

California State Disability Insurance (SDI)

The SDI program is an insurance plan for eligible California workers that is funded through employee payroll deductions. An SSDI beneficiary in California may also qualify for the SDI, which provides up to 12 months of help to people with disabilities who used to work. The SDI benefit is 60-70% of your normal wages. The SDI program covers more than 18 million California workers.

People can receive SDI benefits in tandem with SSDI benefits with no reduction in SSDI benefits. The only exception to this is if the combination SSDI and any other disability benefit exceed 80% of what SSA considers your average current earnings based on their formulas.

To file an SDI claim in California, your employer or health care practitioner will generally provide the form. It is also available on the website of the state’s Economic Development Department (EDD). Your health care practitioner must complete part of it, and the form must be submitted to the EDD within 48 days of becoming disabled.

Workers' Comp Basics in California

Employers in California must provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees by paying for workers’ compensation insurance. The insurance company will pay for an employee’s medical treatment required, any lost wages incurred, and potentially compensation for permanent impairment or job retraining if a worker suffers from an injury that is work-related or becomes sick from job conditions.

Supplementary Security Income (SSI) and California State Supplemental Program (SSP)

SSDI and SSI are both programs under the Social Security Administration and are often confused with one another. They do have a lot in common but have very different requirements.

While the SSDI is based on disability and work credit, the SSI was specifically created for low-income people who are disabled but do not qualify for SSDI benefits. SSI recipients in California can also receive benefits from the California State Supplemental Program (SPP). All but eight states offer state supplements that augment the monthly federal SSI payment.

Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI)

CAPI is a California-state-funded program for disabled people who would be eligible for SSI if not for their immigration status. It is administered by the California Department of Social Services (DSS). California started the CAPU program in response to a welfare reform act In 1996 that made the federal SSI program more difficult for immigrants to qualify for.

Contacting the Disability Determination Service Division (DDSD)

California’s DDSD has 11 branches across the state.

San Diego Branch
P.O. Box 85326
San Diego, CA 92186-5326
Phone: (619) 278-4300

Covina Branch
P.O. Box 6118
Covina, CA 91722-6118
Phone: (213) 736-7900

Roseville Branch
P.O. Box 619020
Roseville, CA 95678-9861
Phone: (916) 774-4100

Los Angeles North Branch
P.O. Box 54800
Los Angeles, CA 90054-0800
Phone: (213) 736-7000

La Jolla Branch
P.O. Box 85501
San Diego, CA 92186-5501
Phone: (619) 278-4550

Stockton Branch
P.O. Box 207015
Stockton, CA 95267

Oakland Branch
P.O. Box 24225
Oakland, CA 94623-1225
Phone: (510) 622-3506

Sierra Branch
P.O. Box 28937
Fresno, CA 93720-8937
Phone: (559) 440-5200

Sacramento Branch
P.O. Box 997120
Sacramento, CA 95899-7120
Phone: (916) 263-5000

Los Angeles West Branch
P.O. Box 60999
Los Angeles, CA 90060-0999
Phone: (213) 736-7500

Central Valley Branch
P.O. Box 28931
Fresno, CA 93729-9835
Phone: (559) 440-5000

Rancho Bernardo Branch
P.O. Box 509135
San Diego, CA 92150

How to Contact a Hearing Office in California

Under the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), administrative law judges (ALJ) conduct hearings and issue decisions.

SSA, Office of Hearings Operations Regional Headquarters
555 Battery Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: (866) 964-7584
Fax: (415) 705-2020

Los Angeles (Downtown)
City National Bank Building, Suite 1200
606 South Olive Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Phone: (888) 488-0517
Fax: (213) 894-2595

12440 E. Imperial Highway
Suite 250
Norwalk, CA 90650
Phone: (877) 870-6385
Fax: (562) 462-9289

Centrum North, Suite 600
1120 West La Veta Avenue
Orange, CA 92868
Phone: (866) 593-1447
Fax: (714) 246-8271

San Diego
525 B Street, Suite 900
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (866) 331-2294
Fax: (619) 557-6733

San Rafael
4040 Civic Center Drive
Suite 230
San Rafael, CA 94903
Phone: (866) 814-3559
Fax: (415) 472-5824

2440 Tulare Street
Suite 300
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: (866) 596-7568
Fax: (559) 443-1281

Los Angeles (West)
12121 Wilshire Boulevard
Suite 400
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone: (866) 748-2089
Fax: (310) 479-3370

Oakland Federal Building, Suite 200N
1301 Clay Street
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: (866) 366-4916
Fax: (510) 637-3424

Suite 250
1610 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95815
Phone: (866) 931-2544
Fax: (916) 925-5014

San Francisco
Equity Building, 16th Floor
301 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: 866-770-1221
Fax: (415) 744-2548

Santa Barbara
222 East Carrillo Street
Suite 206
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (866) 273-4953
Fax: (805) 564-3404

Long Beach
Federal Building
Suite 5300
501 West Ocean Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90802
Phone: (855) 532-0889
Fax: (562) 980-4131

Moreno Valley
22690 Cactus Avenue
3rd Floor
Moreno Valley, CA 92553
Phone: (866) 737-4503
Fax: (951) 867-3779

San Bernardino
605 North Arrowhead Ave
Suite 200
San Bernardino, CA 92401
Phone: (866) 331-7127
Fax: (909) 381-9288

San Jose
RFP Federal Building
Suite 330
280 South First Street
San Jose, CA 95113-3086
Phone: (866) 331-2219
Fax: (408) 535-5286

3116 W. March Lane
Suite 100
Stockton, CA 95219
Phone: (866) 494-3136
Fax: (209) 477-3394

Pasadena Towers 1
800 E. Colorado Blvd., Suite 500
Pasadena, California 91101
Phone: (866) 354-0220
Fax: (626) 793-3080