Filing for Disability Benefits in Hawaii

You may get denied benefits when you first apply; 60% of Hawaiian applicants do. But Hawaii's Social Security hearing approval rate is much higher than other states.

By , J.D. · Albany Law School
Updated by Bethany K. Laurence, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

If you live in Hawaii and want to apply for Social Security or SSI disability benefits, the application and appeal process is generally the same as in the rest of the United States, since Social Security and SSI are federal programs. However, there are differences in disability benefits between the states, including payment amounts and approval rates. Below are commonly asked questions that apply to people with disabililties who live in Hawaii.

How Do I Apply for and Get Disability Benefits in Hawaii?

You apply for disability benefits online at the SSA's website or through a local Social Security field office. Hawaii has five field offices, in Hilo, Honolulu, Kapolei, Lihue, and Wailuku.

At the field office (or over the phone), a claims representative will review your application to make sure you've met all of the technical requirements for benefits (such as the work history requirements for SSDI or the income limits for SSI).

If you meet the technical requirements, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send your application to a claims examiner at the Hawaii Disability Determination Branch (DDB), a state agency, for a medical decision to be made on your records.

What Happens If My Disability Claim Is Denied?

If the claims examiner at the DDB denies your claim, you can ask that it be reconsidered by a different claims examiner by filing a reconsideration request (this is the first level of appeal).

If your claim is denied again, you can request a hearing by filing a request for a hearing with an administrative law judge. The DDB will then send your claim to the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), a branch of Social Security, where a judge will decide your case at a disability hearing.

How Likely Am I to Be Approved for Social Security Benefits in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, your chances of approval from the DDB, at the initial and reconsideration stage, are fairly average compared to the national average. You have a 39% chance of being approved at the first stage, and only a 13% of being approved at the first level of appeal.

If DDS denies you disability benefits a second time and you have to request a hearing, you have a much better chance of being approved for benefits: 71%. Unfortunately, the wait time for a hearing in Hawaii is currently a year and a half. Below is a chart that compares Hawaii to the national averages for the percentage of approvals and wait time.

Step in Process

Hawaii

Nationally

Initial Application

39%

38%

Reconsideration

13%

15%

Hearing

71%

55%

Hearing Wait Time

18 months

10 months


Source: ALJ Disposition Data Fiscal Year 2024 and Average Wait Time Until Hearing, February 2024 (Social Security).

How Do I Contact Someone Regarding My Disability Application?

Who you will contact regarding your disability benefits application depends where in the process you are. Before applying for benefits, you can direct any questions to the SSA field office nearest to you.

If you've filed your initial application or a reconsideration request and you have questions, you should contact the Hawaii Disability Determination Branch (DDB).

There is one DDB office in Hawaii, in Honolulu. Here's its contact information.

Disability Determination Branch
Kapiolanc Commercial Center
1580 Makaloa Street, Suite 660
P.O. Box 2458
Honolulu, Hawaii 96804
Telephone: (808) 973-7013

Who Do I Contact Regarding My Social Security Disability Appeal?

After you file a request for a hearing with an ALJ, you should contact the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) with any questions. OHO handles all parts of the appeals process, including scheduling hearings.

There is one OHO hearing office located in Hawaii, in Honolulu. The regional OHO office that oversees the Hawaii hearing office is in San Francisco. Here is the contact information for the Honolulu OHO:

Honolulu Hearing Office

Prince Kuhio Federal Building
300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 3-303
Honolulu, Hawaii 96850
Telephone: (855) 601-2479
Fax: (833) 511-0337

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

How Much SSDI Will I Receive in Hawaii?

For applicants who are approved for benefits through Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), the amount that you receive depends on the amount of money you paid into the Social Security system while working. Your payment can be up to about $3,800, but few people receive that amount. (And widows and disabled adult children always receive less than disabled workers.) The average SSDI payment in Hawaii for disabled workers was $1,773 in 2022.

Read more about how Social Security calculates your SSDI payment.

How Much SSI Will I Receive in Hawaii?

For those who are receiving benefits through Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you can receive a monthly benefit from the federal government of $943 for an individual and $1,415 for a couple (in 2024). But these amounts are for individuals who have no countable income; most types of income can lower your monthly benefit. Receiving free or discounted room and board can also reduce your benefits. Because of these reductions, the average SSI payment in Hawaii is $581.

You might also receive a supplementary payment from the State of Hawaii in addition to federal payment, if you live in some type of adult care facility. The Social Security Administration administers and pays Hawaii's supplementary payment. Below is a chart that outlines the maximum of federal and state payments you can expect to receive in Hawaii for 2024.

Living Arrangement

Combined Federal and Hawaii Monthly Benefit

Living in someone else's household

Individual: $628.67

Couple: $943.34

Living independently (or with spouse)

Individual: $943

Couple: $1,415

Living in an adult foster care home

Individual: $1,594.90

Couple: $3,055.80

Living in a non-medical facility (five people or less)

Individual: $1,594.90

Couple: $3,055.80

Living in a non-medical facility (more than five people)

Individual: $1,702.90

Couple: $3,271.80

Living in a Medicaid facility

Individual: $50

Couple: $100

Is Disability Income Taxable in Hawaii?

Hawaii exempts 100% of Social Security benefits and SSI benefits from a resident's tax liability. That means the state doesn't tax SSDI or SSI payments. For people with higher incomes, the federal government will tax a portion of their SSDI benefits. But the IRS will never tax SSI benefits.

Can I Get Help to Try to Return to Work?

The State of Hawaii offers assistance through the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program. VR provides services to those who are disabled to help them prepare for, get, and keep a job. In order to receive benefits, you must follow these steps:

  • Make a referral: Referrals can be made by anyone, including yourself, by writing or calling your local office.
  • Attend orientation: Orientation is provided to inform you about services provided by VR and what qualifications there are to be eligible.
  • Intake and application: At your intake interview, you will meet with an assigned counselor who will talk with you about what the program can do for you specifically. If you want to move forward with applying, you will fill out an application at this point.
  • Assessment: At this stage, your application will be reviewed and you will be interviewed regarding your strengths and weaknesses. You will receive a decision about whether you qualify for VR within 60 days.

There are VR offices on Oahu, Kona, Maui, Kauai, and Molokai, and the Big Island. For more information on this process, see the website of the Hawaii Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Does Hawaii Have Temporary Disability Benefits for Short-Term Disabilities?

Yes, Hawaii provides up to 26 weeks of temporary disability benefits for employees who've worked at least 14 weeks for their employer, for at least 20 hours per week, at a rate of at least $400 per week. The benefits are either 58% of your wages or according to the employer's plan.

For more information, see our article on Hawaii's TDI benefits.

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