If you live in Maine and you're unable to work for medical reasons, you can apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
You apply for disability benefits by going to your local field office (there are eight in Maine) or, for SSDI, by applying online. Once the Social Security field office has determined that you meet all the non-medical requirements for either SSDI or SSI (mostly related to your income and work history), your case will be transferred to Maine's Disability Determination Services (DDS) agency in Augusta. DDS will assign your case to a claims examiner who will request your medical records and determine whether you are medically disabled. Here is DDS's contact information:
Department of Health and Human Services
State House Station #116
Augusta, ME 04333
In Maine, 40% of disability applications are approved by DDS at the initial level, a rate that's higher than the national average.
If DDS denies your claim at the initial level, you have 60 days to appeal. First you request a reconsideration from DDS, where a different examiner will review your claim, and if you are denied a second time, only then can you request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). In Maine, 14% of reconsideration reviews results in an approval of benefits.
Unfortunately, the wait time for a hearing in Maine is long. It can take over a year for a hearing date (10 months for those who requested a hearing in 2018). The hearings are held at the SSA's Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) in Portland. This office is responsible for holding hearings for all residents who apply through the Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Portland, Presque Island, Rockland, Saco, and Waterville field offices. The chance of getting benefits is much higher after a hearing; 56% of applicants who attend an appeal hearing are approved for benefits.
The contact information for Portland's hearing office is as follows:
One Portland Square, Suite 600
Portland, ME 04101
In 2019, the federal government's maximum monthly SSI payment is $771. In addition, the state of Maine offers a small additional monthly payment to SSI recipients. The amount depends on the recipient's living situation. Individuals living on their own or with others, or in a Medicaid facility, receive an extra $8-10 per month, but those living in a boarding home receive $217 to $234.
This program is administered by Maine's Department of Health and Human Services. To apply, contact your local office of the Department of Health and Human Services or call 207-287-3707. The DHHS also manages Maine's Medicaid program, MaineCare, which you automatically become eligible for when you are approved for SSI.
Maine residents whose disability occurred as a result of a work-related illness or accident may also be able to obtain worker's compensation disability benefits through their employer. In some cases, employees have additional private disability coverage as well, which may be available long-term.
Maine does not provide state short-term disability benefits to the disabled. However, the state does provide assistance through nonprofit advocacy organizations such as:
The Disability Rights Center of Maine
106 Capitol Street, Suite 4
Augusta, ME 04330
800-452-1948 (In-State Toll Free)
Anyone facing the prospect of being unable to earn a living wage knows how important it is to be able to obtain disability benefits when they are so badly needed. But just because you have been told by your doctors you are disabled does not mean that the SSA will agree. It's important to be able to present your case effectively, showing all the required documentation and having answers to any questions that may arise. In tough cases, it can require the representation of an experienced disability lawyer to present your case properly. If you are denied benefits, consult with a consult with a disability lawyer.