If you live in Illinois and are disabled, you can receive cash assistance through the federal government and the state's Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled (AABD) program.
The federal government has two programs that provide payments to people who meet the Social Security Administration's (SSA) definition of disabled: Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The federal government is primarily responsible for administering both SSDI and SSI; however, the states also work with the SSA to assist with the process.
There are three different options for applying for SSDI or SSI, depending on whether you're eligible for SSDI or SSI.
SSDI applicants can apply online. If you're applying for SSDI, you can apply online at www.ssa.gov/pgm/disability.htm. SSI applicants can start the process online but they need to have an appointment in person or over the phone to finish the application.
You can apply at your local field office. You can apply at your local field office regardless of whether you are applying for SSI or SSDI. Some field offices require appointments so call the SSA at 800-772-1213 before you go.
You can apply by telephone. You also have the option of applying by phone for either SSI or SSDI. You can apply by calling 800-772-1213.
In 2023, you can receive up to $914 a month in federal SSI payments (this amount will be lower if you have some income). If you can show that your expenses are higher than the amount of your SSI check, Illinois' AABD (Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled) program will supplement the federal SSI payment. T
he AABD program has complicated formulas for determining whether you can receive an AABD payment, based on allowable maximums for certain items. The DHS policy manual lays out the AABD allowances.
You can apply for AABD cash assistance at the Illinois Department of Human Services website or at your local DHS office. But if you live in Cook County, you apply at the district DHS office.
If you have too much income for SSI, you may be eligible for AABD. You can find out whether you're eligible on the AABD page of DHS's website.
The Bureau of Disability Determination Services (DDS) is the state department that makes the initial determinations about whether you're eligible for disability. A claims examiner at DDS will gather and review your medical information and may schedule a consultative examination (CE) for you to attend. A CE is an examination conducted by a doctor hired by the SSA.
Illinois' Department of Human Services manages DDS. Here is DDS's contact information:
Bureau of Disability Determination Services
100 North First Street
PO Box 19250
Springfield, IL 62794-92500
Unlike in other states, you don't automatically qualify for Medicaid if you're approved for SSI in Illinois. (Though you do automatically qualify for Medicaid if you're approved for AABD assistance.)
If you're an Illinois resident and a U.S. citizen or qualifying non-citizen, you might be eligible for Medicaid if you meet Illinois' income and asset requirements.
You can qualify for Medicaid if your income is at or below the federal poverty level and you're blind or disabled (based on Social Security's definition of disabled). This amount is $14,580 annually for an individual in 2023. However, certain income, such as the earned income credit and a portion of unemployment and SSI benefits, aren't counted towards the income limit.
If you earn more than this amount, you could still be eligible for Medicaid through the "spend-down" program. This program allows you to deduct certain costs from your income related to your health expenses, which may help you meet the income requirements. Also, up to $2,000 of assets (for an individual) will not be counted.
You can learn more by visiting the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services website at https://hfs.illinois.gov.
You don't need a lawyer to fill out the application for disability and submit it. But if Social Security denies your claim, it may be helpful to talk about your case with an experienced disability attorney. An attorney can represent you at your Social Security disability hearing as well as help you get AABD benefits by showing how high your needs are (by developing an "AABD budget").
Updated July 14, 2023