If you are a resident of Rhode Island who can't work due to a disability, there are several ways you can get benefits. Long-term disability benefits are provided through the federal government and managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Short-term disability benefits are available through the State of Rhode Island through a program called Temporary Disability Insurance. And for those whose disability was the result of a work-related injury or illness, worker’s compensation insurance provides temporary and/or permanent disability benefits.
The SSA administers two different disability benefits: Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), for most people who are eligible for Social Security retirement and SSI (for low-income people).
You can call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to set up an appointment to apply for disability benefits (either in person or by phone) or you can contact the Social Security field office nearest you. Rhode Island has five SSA field offices, in Providence, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Warwick, and Newport. You can also start your application online if you are applying for SSDI.
After Social Security takes your disability application, your file is sent to Rhode Island's Disability Determination Services (DDS) agency, located in Providence. Rhode Island’s DDS comes under the Office of Rehabilitation Services, which in turn falls under the Department of Human Services. Claims examiners at the RI DDS review your file, request medical records from your doctor, and decide whether you meet Social Security’s definition of disabled. Once your file leaves Social Security, you can contact DDS for status reports. Its contact information follows.
Disability Determination Services
Office of Rehabilitation Service
40 Fountain St., 6th Floor
Providence, RI 02903
DDS is also the agency that decides whether someone is eligible for Medicaid. In Rhode Island, if you are approved for disability benefits through SSI, you'll automatically be eligible for Medicaid, starting immediately.
If your disability application is denied by DDS, the next step in Rhode Island is to seek a reconsideration by DDS. If your request for reconsideration is denied, the next step is to ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). ALJ hearings are administered through Social Security’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).
Hearings are held at Rhode Island's ODAR office, also in Providence, at the following address.
Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
155 Westminster St., Suite 1000W
Providence, RI 02903
If you want to be represented by a lawyer at your hearing (which, statistically, does increase your chances of winning benefits), you can locate a RI lawyer by using our disability attorney locator tool.
If you are approved for SSI, the State of Rhode Island adds a small payment onto the federal payment, which is $710 for individuals without any other income, in 2013. The amount of the supplement depends on your living circumstances. Those living on their own receive an extra $40, those living in someone else's household receive an extra $52, and those living in adult residential care or an assisted living facility receive $538 extra per month.
You don't need to apply for the supplement; Social Security administers and pays the supplement for Rhode Island.
There are a very few states that provide additional disability benefits for their residents, and Rhode Island is one of them. In fact, the state was the first in the nation to provide such benefits. Under Rhode Island's Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program, residents who were employed but are now disabled may be eligible for temporary benefits. In order to qualify, they must:
For assistance outside of disability benefits, Rhode Island advocacy agencies such as the following can help.
Rhode Island Disability Law Center, Inc.
275 Westminster Street, Suite 401
Providence, RI 02903
For those who are injured on the job, Rhode Island requires all employers to carry worker’s compensation insurance and provide temporary and permanent disability benefits. For more information, see our article on Rhode Island workers' comp.