Filing for Disability and SSI in Massachusetts

Get help applying for Social Security disability, appealing a denial, and going back to work in the Bay State.

By , J.D. · Albany Law School

While the federal government pays out Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, each state handles the disability determination process for its own residents. Below is an overview of the disability benefit process in Massachusetts.

How and Where Do I Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits in Massachusetts?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs the disability benefits program for both SSDI and SSI. You can apply for disability benefits through a local Social Security field office (Massachusetts has about 30 Social Security field offices), or you can apply online at SSA's website (for SSI, you can start, but not finish the application online; the SSA will contact you to complete the application).

If you apply at a Massachusetts field office, 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). Field offices can have long waits, so you should try to make an appointment first by calling 800-772-1213.

If you meet the technical requirements for SSDI, SSI, or both, the SSA will send your application to a claims examiner at Massachusett's Disability Determination Services (DDS), a state agency under the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, for a medical decision to be made on your records.

A claims examiner at DDS will determine if you qualify for disability benefits. If you have a question after filing, or want to check the status of your claim, contact your closest DDS office.

There are two DDS offices in Massachusetts; their contact information is below.

Boston Disability Determination Services
135 Santilli Way
Everett, MA 02149
(617) 727-1600

Worcester Disability Determination Services
18 Chestnut Street, Suite 300
Worcester, MA 01608
(508) 752-5001

What Are My Chances of Being Awarded Disability Benefits in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, DDS's rate of disability benefit approvals is higher than the national average. The DDS's approval rate on initial disability applications is 47%, while the DDS approval rate nationally is 38%.

The DDS's approval rate on reconsiderations is 23%, while the national average is 15%. However, the approval rate following an ALJ hearing in Massachusetts is slightly lower than the national average (53% compared to 57%). This dip in the approval rate at the hearing stage may be because the claims examiners at DDS are correctly approving most valid disability claims, so the judges at the hearing office need to reverse fewer denials.

Stage of Application



Initial Application

47% approved

38% approved

Reconsideration Review

23% approved

15% approved

Appeal Hearing

53% approved

57% approved

Hearing Wait Time

16 months

15 months

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

How Long Does It Take to Get an ALJ Hearing in Massachusetts?

The average wait time for a hearing in Massachusetts is 16 months, but that's mostly due to longer wait times in the Boston and Lawrence hearing offices. If you live in western Massachusetts, you will probably have your hearing at the Springfield hearing office, where wait times are averaging just 12 months in 2023.

If you think you have a strong case and supportive medical records, a disability lawyer may be able to get you an on-the-record decision without your having to wait for a hearing.

Source: Average Wait Time Until Hearing, June 2023 (Social Security).

If I'm Approved for SSI, How Much Money Will I Receive Monthly?

In Massachusetts, your SSI money will come in two parts: the bulk of it from the federal government and the rest from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Federal SSI Payment

The federal government sets the monthly amount of the needs-based SSI payments each year. In 2023, the federal government will pay an individual a maximum of $914 per month and couples $1,371 per month. But if you have any other income or you get free room and board, the SSA will lower your payments.

State SSP Payment

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts makes additional "supplement" payments to people receiving SSI from the state supplement program (SSP). You'll receive SSP payments by either check or direct deposit—the same way you receive your federal SSI money. Massachusetts sends the SSP payments on the same schedule as the federal SSI payment, usually on the first of the month unless the first falls on a weekend or holiday (see our SSI payment calendar).

The Massachusetts SSP payment amounts are set out below (the amount depends on your living situation). The spousal amounts below are for couples where both spouses receive disability benefits.

Massachusetts Monthly Supplement

MA & Federal Monthly Supplement Combined

Living Independently

Individual: $114.39

Each Spouse: $90.03

Individual: $1028.39

Each Spouse: $775.53

Shared Living Expenses

Individual: $30.40

Each Spouse: $90.03

Individual: $944.40

Each Spouse: $775.53

Living in the Household of Another

Individual: $87.58

Each Spouse: $97.09

Individual: $696.92

Each Spouse: $554.09

Licensed Rest Home

Individual: $293

Each Spouse: $521.50

Individual: $1,207.00

Each Spouse: $1,207.00

Medicaid Facility

Individual: $42.80

Each Spouse: $42.80

Individual: $72.80

Each Spouse: $72.80

Assisted Living Facility

Individual: $454

Each Spouse: $340.50

Individual: $1,368

Each Spouse: $1,026

Source: Massachusetts State Supplement, 2023 (Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance).

The supplements for blind recipients are higher, and in some cases significantly higher. See MA's 2023 state supplement page for more details.

Is Disability Income Taxable in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts 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.

How Do I Appeal a Decision by Social Security or DDS?

If you're denied Social Security or SSI benefits, you're entitled to appeal your decision. In Massachusetts, there is a four-step appeals process.

Reconsideration. In this first appeal step, your application is reviewed by an examiner at DDS who has not previously reviewed it. Learn more about requesting a reconsideration.

ALJ hearing. If the DDS denies you benefits again during the reconsideration, you can appeal for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Appeals Council. If the ALJ denies you disability benefits, you can appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council. The Appeals Council might hear your case or send your case back to the ALJ to be reviewed again.

Lawsuit in federal court. If you are denied by the Appeals Council (or the ALJ on re-review), you might choose to file a lawsuit in federal court, with the help of an attorney.

Massachusetts Hearing Offices

The Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), which was formerly known as the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), is the office that manages all disability hearings. The contact information for the three hearing offices that serve Massachusetts is listed below.

Boston Hearing Office

One Bowdoin Square, 4th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02114
Telephone: (888) 870-7573
Fax: (833) 710-0405

The Boston OHO serves the following field offices: Attleboro, Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Dorchester, Fall River, Falmouth, Fitchburg, Framingham, Gardner, Hanover, Hyannis, Lynn, Malden, New Bedford, Norwood, Quincy, Roslindale, Somerville, Taunton, and Waltham.

Lawrence Hearing Office

439 South Union Street, 3rd Floor
Lawrence, Massachusetts 01843
Telephone: (877) 405-9189
Fax: (833) 775-0565

The Lawrence OHO serves the following field offices: Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, and Salem.

Springfield Hearing Office

1441 Main Street, Suite 450
Springfield, Massachusetts 01103
Telephone: (866) 964-5058
Fax: (833) 359-0109

The Springfield OHO serves the following field offices: Greenfield, Holyoke, North Adams, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester.

Before your hearing, you may want to check to see whether they have been any address and phone number changes by using Social Security's hearing office locator.

Where Can I Get Help to Return to Work?

Massachusetts provides services to individuals trying to go back to work through Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS), which is a division under the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.

Services provided include job training in preparation for getting a job, assistance getting a job, and help keeping your job despite an impairment.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services has offices throughout the state to service individuals in need. To apply for services, you should contact your local office. A list of the local VRS offices and their contact information can be found here.

Updated July 26, 2023

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