California Disability Benefits: Social Security Filing and Insurance

Find out about California's state supplemental payments, plus how to appeal a denial of Social Security disability or SSI and whether you qualify for Medicaid.

By , Attorney

California disability applicants can obtain disability-based benefits from a number of sources, including federal programs, state disability programs provided by the state of California, and in limited instances, from employer disability programs. These programs provide income to disabled persons who are no longer able to participate in substantial gainful activity (work sufficient to provide a livable income) due to a long-term disability.

Social Security Disability Benefits

For Californians with injuries or illnesses that are expected to last over a year, Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be available. To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked a certain number of years and paid FICA or SECA taxes. To qualify for SSI, you must have low income and assets.

While you apply with the Social Security Administration for both of these programs, California's Disability Determination Service Division (DDSD), an agency under the California Department of Social Services, handles the initial determination on the claim. A disability claims examiner at DDSD gathers your medical records and decides whether you qualify for disability benefits. DDSD has 12 offices in California, including branches in Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles, Glendale, San Diego, and Stockton.

California State Supplement to SSI

California pays SSI recipients an extra "state supplement," which helps account for the higher cost of living in much of California. For an individual, the supplement ranges from $160 per month to $423 per month, depending on your living arrangements (whether you live on your own, with or without cooking facilities, or with another person). The Social Security Administration administers the state supplement, so SSI recipients in California get one combined check. Here are state and federal SSI amounts:

California Benefit

California and Federal Benefit Combined

Living independently with cooking Facilities

Individual: $161
Couple: $407

Individual: $955
Couple: $1,598

Living independently without cooking facilities

Individual: $247
Couple: $580

Individual: $1,041
Couple: $1,771

Living in nonmedical out-of-home care situation

Individual: $423
Couple: $1,245

Individual: $1,217
Couple: $2,435

Living in the household of another with in-kind room and board

Individual: $164
Couple: n/a

Individual: $694
Couple: $1,233

CalFresh Benefits for SSI Recipients

California residents who receive SSI are 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.


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

Short-Term Disability Benefits

California is one of just a few states that provide short-term disability insurance (SDI) for those who are unable to work for less than a year due to injury or sickness. The California Employee Development Department (EDD) handles these disability claims. For more information, see our articles on California's short-term disability insurance program.

Employer-Based Disability Benefits

Some employers provide short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) insurance coverage for their employees through private insurance companies.

Getting Legal Help with California Disability Benefits

If you have been denied Social Security disability benefits, LTD/STD benefits, or SDI benefits, you may want to consult with a disability lawyer to get help with your appeal. (California has a 63% denial rate after the initial application, but only a 44% denial rate after the appeal hearing.) If you're interested in hiring a disability lawyer, see our California disability lawyer page.

Updated February 10, 2021

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