Filing for Disability in California: Social Security and SSI

Here is an overview of the disability benefits process in California as well as some statistics and helpful resources and contact information.

Updated by , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Social Security disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are federal programs. While these disability programs are run by the Social Security Administration, California has its own state agency, called the Disability Determination Services Division (DDSD), that determines whether applicants are disabled. And the agency has different approval and denial rates from the rest of the country.

This article discusses the approval and denial rates for California's DDSD agency and its hearing offices, as well as California's supplemental SSI payment amounts. It also covers eligibility for other public benefits, such as Medicaid and food stamps.

The Social Security Disability Process in California

After you file an initial disability application with the Social Security Administration (SSA), either at the field office, by telephone, or online, the SSA will forward the application to the Disability Determination Service Division. The DDSD is a state agency under the California Department of Social Services.

A disability claims examiner at the DDSD will gather evidence from your doctors and, with the help of a doctor who works for the DDSD, will make the medical determination as to whether you qualify for disability benefits. (You can find contact information for California's 12 DDSD offices below.)

If you receive a denial letter from Social Security, you can appeal by requesting the DDSD to reconsider your claim. This first stage of appeal is called a "reconsideration" appeal, and you have to go through it before you can request a hearing.

If the DDSD denies you again, you can request an appeal hearing in front of an administrative law judge. The average wait time in California for an ALJ hearing in 2023 is about 18 months. (Source: Average Wait Time Until Hearing, June 2023.)

Is It Easier to Get Approved for Disability in California?

At the initial application stage, it's actually a bit harder to get disability benefits in California than in the rest of the country. After filing the initial application, only 37% of disability applicants are approved to receive benefits, meaning that 63% are denied. Nationally, about 39% of claims are approved after the initial application.

At the reconsideration level (the first level of appeal), about 14% of the previously denied cases are approved (compared to 15% nationally).

And at the disability hearing level (the second level of appeal), in 2023, 61% of the previously denied cases have been approved for benefits (with a higher percentage of disability claimants who have a disability lawyer or representative winning benefits).

California does have a higher rate of approval after a hearing than the national average. This may indicate that claims examiners at the DDSD are denying some valid disability claims, and judges at the hearing office are reversing some of these denials.

Stage of Application California National
Initial Application 37% 39%
Reconsideration Review 14% 15%
Appeal Hearing 61% 56%

Source: ALJ Disposition Data Fiscal Year 2023 (Social Security).

What Is the SSI Payment Amount in California?

As SSI is a federal program, the federal government provides a monthly benefit to all who qualify. In 2024, the federal government provides the following monthly benefits to SSI disability recipients with no other income:

Federal Monthly SSI Benefit
Individual $943
Couple $1,415

But the State of California adds a state supplementary payment (SSP) to the monthly federal benefits.

How Much Is California's State Supplemental Payment?

With California's extra supplementary payment, the total monthly amount goes up significantly. This chart has the total maximum SSI amounts in California for 2024, depending on your living situation:

Combined Benefit for Blind Recipients

Combined Benefit for Non-Blind Recipients

Living independently with cooking facilities

Individual: $1,267

Couple: $2,248

Individual: $1,183

Couple: $2,023

Living independently without cooking facilities

Individual: n/a

Couple: n/a

Individual: $1,312

Couple: $2,281

Living in nonmedical out-of-home care situation (NMOHC)

Individual: $1,575

Couple: $3,150

Individual: $1,575

Couple: $3,150

Living in the household of another

Individual: $958

Couple: $1,785

Individual: $874

Couple: $1,559

Source: SSI in California (2024), the Social Security Administration.

This extra payment affects not only the amount of SSI you'll get but also your eligibility for SSI (because it raises the income limit for SSI, so you may be able to earn a bit more income).

Eligibility for Other Public Benefits

California residents who are approved for SSI are automatically approved for Medicaid benefits as well. Social Security will enroll you in the Medicaid program automatically when the agency approves your SSI benefits.

California residents who receive SSI are also eligible for CalFresh benefits (federally known as SNAP, or food stamps). Previously, California SSI recipients were paid a higher state supplementary payment instead of food stamps.

For those who are newly unable to work, California has a short-term disability insurance (SDI) program that provides up to 52 weeks of benefits for those who are ill or injured and unable to work. The SDI benefit is 60-70% of your normal wages. California's paid family leave program also provides up to six weeks of paid leave. For more information, see our article on California short-term disability.

How to Contact the DDSD

California's DDSD makes the initial decision regarding whether or not you will receive disability benefits. They have 11 branches throughout California.

Central Valley Branch

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

Covina Branch

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

La Jolla Branch

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

Los Angeles West Branch

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

Los Angeles North Branch

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

Oakland Branch

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

Rancho Bernardo Branch

P.O. Box 509135
San Diego, CA 92150

Roseville Branch

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

Sacramento Branch

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

San Diego Branch

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

Sierra Branch

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

Stockton Branch

P.O. Box 207015
Stockton, CA 95267

How to Contact a Hearing Office in California

The Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) handles all hearings. Its regional headquarters are located in San Francisco. There are also hearing offices in many other cities.

Fresno Hearing Office

2440 Tulare Street, Suite 300
Fresno, California 93721
Phone: (866) 596-7568
Fax: (833)-586-0162

Services the following field offices: Fresno, Hanford, Madera, Merced, Porterville, Southeast Fresno, Visalia, and West Fresno

Long Beach Hearing Office

Federal Building, Suite 5300
501 West Ocean Boulevard
Long Beach, California 90802
Phone: (855) 532-0889
Fax: (833) 365-0277

Services the following field offices: Lakewood, Long Beach, San Pedro, and Torrance

Downtown Los Angeles Hearing Office

888 S. Figeroa St., Suite 800
Los Angeles, California 90017
Phone: (888) 488-0517
Fax: (833) 719-0416

Services the following field offices: Crenshaw, Los Angeles Downtown, University Village, Watts, and Wilshire Center

Los Angeles (West) Hearing Office

12121 Wilshire Boulevard
Suite 400
Los Angeles, California 90025
Phone: (866) 748-2089
Fax: (833) 414-0623

Services the following field offices: Chatsworth, Culver City, Hollywood, Inglewood, Lancaster, Westwood, Panorama City, and Santa Clarita

Moreno Valley Hearing Office

22690 Cactus Avenue
3rd Floor
Moreno Valley, California 92553
Phone: (866) 737-4503
Fax: (833) 559-0770

Services the following field offices: Blythe, Corona, Hemet, Indio, Moreno Valley, Morongo Basin, Palm Springs, Riverside

Norwalk Hearing Office

12440 E. Imperial Highway
Suite 250
Norwalk, CA 90650

Phone: (877) 870-6385
Fax: (833) 648-0169

Services the following Social Security field offices: Boyle Heights, Compton, Downey, Huntington Park, Montebello, Norwalk, Whittier

Oakland Hearing Office

Oakland Federal Building, Suite 200N
1301 Clay Street
Oakland, California 94612
Phone: (866) 366-4916
Fax: (833) 769-0239

Services the following field offices: Antioch, Berkeley, East Oakland, Fremont, Hayward/Livermore, Oakland, Richmond, San Leandro, and Walnut Creek

Orange Hearing Office

Centrum North, Suite 600
1120 West La Veta Avenue
Orange, California 92868
Phone: (866) 593-1447
Fax: (833) 769-0241

Services the following field offices: Anaheim, Brea, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Missions Viejo, Newport Beach, Ontario, Pomona Valley, and San Ana

Pasadena Hearing Office

Pasadena Towers 1
800 E. Colorado Blvd., Suite 500
Pasadena, California 91101
Phone: (866) 354-0220
Fax: (833) 311-0104

Services the following field offices: Alhambra, Arcadia, El Monte, Glendale, Glendora, Industry Hills, Old Burbank, Pasadena, San Fernando, and West Covina

Sacramento Hearing Office

Suite 250
1610 Arden Way
Sacramento, California 95815
Phone: (866) 931-2544
Fax: (833) 365-0279

Services the following field offices: Auburn, Chico, Oroville, Placerville, Redding, Roseville, Sacramento (North, South, and West), Susanville, and Yuba City

San Bernardino Hearing Office

Suite 200
605 North Arrowhead Avenue
San Bernardino, California 92401
Phone: (866) 331-7127
Fax: (833) 719-0408

Services the following field offices: Barstow, Fontana, Redlands, San Bernardino, and Victorville

San Diego Hearing Office

525 B Street, Suite 900
San Diego, California 92101
Phone: (866) 331-2294
Fax: (833) 586-0164

Services the following field offices: Chula Vista, El Cajon, El Centro, Kearny Mesa, La Mesa, National City, Pacific Beach, Oceanside, San Diego, San Marcos, and Yuma

San Francisco Hearing Office

Equity Building, 16th Floor
San Francisco, California 94105
Phone: (866) 770-1221
Fax: (833) 365-0281

Services the following field offices: Bakersfield, Chinatown, Daly City, Delano, Mission, Parkside, Downtown San Francisco, San Mateo, and Western Addition

San Jose Hearing Office

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

Services the following field offices: Campbell, Gilroy, Mountain View, Redwood City, Salinas, San Jose, San Jose East, San Jose South, Santa Cruz, and Watsonville

San Rafael Hearing Office

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

Services the following field offices: Crescent City, Eureka, Lakeport, Napa, San Rafael, Santa Rosa, Suisun City, Ukiah, Vallejo

Santa Barbara Hearing Office

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

Services the following field offices: Oxnard, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura

Stockton Hearing Office

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

Services the following field offices: Lodi, Manteca, Modesto, Sonora, and Stockton

Before your hearing, you may want to check for address and phone number changes with Social Security's hearing office locator.

Get More Information on Filing for Disability

If you'd like to find out more about getting disability and what to expect during the application process, check out these articles:

Updated March 19, 2024

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