If you live in Montana and can't work for at least a year, you could be eligible for Social Security disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. These federal disability programs provide monthly payments to disabled applicants who meet certain requirements.
Applicants who've worked and paid into the Social Security system in recent years might qualify for SSDI benefits, while Montana residents who have minimal to no past earnings could be eligible for SSI, if their income and assets fall under the established limits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers both Social Security disability and SSI benefits. The agency offers multiple ways you can apply for disability benefits, including
Unfortunately, about 48% of people who apply for disability benefits in Montana receive a denial at the initial stage, meaning that Montana's Disability Determination Services determined they weren't eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
The most common reason a Social Security claim is denied is a lack of sufficient evidence (such as medical records) to prove that the applicant suffers from a long-term, serious disability.
If your claim is denied, you can ask that a different claims examiner "reconsider" it 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.
If your application for disability benefits is denied, you can appeal the decision by filing a "Request for Reconsideration" form with the SSA. Your claim will be reviewed by someone other than the claims examiner who initially denied it, and you should be notified of the new decision in five to six months. Approximately 25% of Montana disability claims are approved at the reconsideration step.
If you receive a second denial after reconsideration, the next step is to request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The wait for a disability hearing can be long – the average wait time in Montana is 17 months in 2023.
At your disability hearing at the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), you'll have the chance to speak directly to the person who will be deciding whether or not you're eligible for disability: the ALJ. At this stage of appeal, about 53% of disability hearings in Montana result in applicants being awarded Social Security disability benefits.
You'll usually receive the judge's decision in writing within 30 days of your hearing.
|Stage of Application
Initial Application Approval
Hearing Wait Time
If your hearing results in an "unfavorable" decision (meaning the ALJ denies your claim), there are two more steps in the appeals process you can take. First, you can ask Social Security's Appeals Council to review your claim. If the Appeal Council also denies your claim, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. But relatively few Montana disability claims are approved at these last two levels.
This maximum federal SSI payment is $914 in 2023 ($1,371 for couples). But Montana residents who receive SSI and live in a group or community home can receive an additional monthly payment from the state. In 2023, Montana SSI recipients who reside in an assisted living home will receive $94, those who live in an adult foster home get $52.75, and the amount for SSI beneficiaries who live in a transitional home for those with developmental disabilities is $26.00. (See Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Rule 37.43.104.)
You can apply for the state supplement at:
Montana's Disability Determination Services (DDS) is the state agency that's responsible for making the initial decisions on Social Security disability claims for Montanans.
Although Social Security does the initial processing for all disability applications, if you meet the technical requirements, the agency will send your application to DDS for a medical decision to be made on your records. Next, Montana DDS claims examiners and medical professionals employed by the Montana DDS decide whether or not to approve your disability claim.
Here is the DDS's contact information:
Montana Disability Determination Services (DDS)
2550 Prospect Drive
Helena, MT 59601
Tel: (406) 444-3054
The SSA holds disability appeal hearings at Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) locations. There is one OHO office in Montana, located in Billings. Here is its contact information:
2900 Fourth Avenue North
Billings, MT 59101
Tel: (877) 545-5512
Fax: (833) 311-0102
Before your hearing, you may want to check to see if the address and phone number have changed with Social Security's hearing office locator.
Montana's Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services (VRBS) offers assistance to disabled Montana residents who want to try to return to work. The support includes career counseling, job training, and job placement, as well as referrals for medical and psychological services.
There are numerous VRBS locations throughout Montana. You can find more information on the VRBS website at https://dphhs.mt.gov/detd/vocrehab/. Here is the address:
Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services
111 North Last Chance Gulch, Suite 4C
P.O. Box 4210
Helena, MT 59604
Fax: (406) 444-3632
Updated July 24, 2023