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How To Apply For Permanent Disability In California?

Last updated: November 19, 2023

A permanent disability, as the name suggests, refers to a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities. This includes walking, hearing, seeing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. These disabilities are expected to last a lifetime, thus termed "permanent."

There are different types of permanent disabilities, including sensory impairments, cognitive impairments, physical impairments, and psychiatric conditions. The range of conditions classified under these categories is wide, encompassing conditions like blindness, paralysis, traumatic brain injury, and major depressive disorder.

Eligibility for Permanent Disability in California

Basic Requirements

To qualify for permanent disability benefits in California, one must have a disability that is both permanent and prevents them from doing substantial work. Additionally, the disability must be verified by a medical professional and expected to last at least one year or result in death.

Disability Assessment

The State of California utilizes the Disability Evaluation Unit (DEU) to assess the severity of a disability. It is crucial for applicants to provide all necessary medical documents, including detailed notes from treating physicians and test results, for an accurate assessment.

The Application Process

Filing an Application

To begin the process, you'll need to fill out an application for disability benefits. The application is available online on the Social Security Administration's website or at your local Social Security office.

Documents Required

You'll need proof of your identity (like a driver's license or passport), your Social Security number, medical records and test results, and your work history and income.

Medical Examinations

In some cases, additional medical examinations may be required. If so, these are typically arranged and paid for by the Social Security Administration.

Understanding Disability Benefits

How the Benefit Amount is Calculified

The amount of disability benefit received is based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. It's not based on the severity of your disability or how much income you have.

Benefits Duration

As long as you continue to have a disability, your disability benefits will continue. These benefits typically convert to retirement benefits once the beneficiary reaches full retirement age.

What to Do if Your Application is Denied

Appeal Process

If your application is denied, don't despair. You have the right to appeal the decision, and many initial denials are overturned on appeal.

Time Frame for Appeals

You typically have 60 days from receiving the denial notice to request an appeal. It's crucial to act promptly to ensure your appeal is accepted.

Getting Legal Help

Consider seeking help from a disability lawyer if your application is denied. They can provide valuable guidance and improve your chances of a successful appeal.


1. Can I work while receiving permanent disability benefits in California?

Yes, you can work while receiving benefits, but there are limits on how much you can earn.

2. What is the average monthly disability benefit in California?

As of 2023, the average monthly disability benefit is approximately $1,200.

3. How long does it take to get approved for permanent disability benefits in California?

It typically takes 3 to 5 months to receive a decision.

4. Do I need a lawyer to apply for permanent disability benefits in California?

While not required, having a lawyer can make the process easier and increase your chances of approval.

5. What medical conditions qualify for permanent disability in California?

Many conditions can qualify, including but not limited to various forms of cancer, heart disease, lung disease, mental disorders, and neurological disorders.


Applying for permanent disability in California may seem daunting, but understanding the process and requirements can make it manageable. With the right preparation and documentation, you can navigate this process to secure your needed support. Don't hesitate to seek professional assistance, particularly when filing an appeal.

Read more about disability rights in California from our resources at Disability Help today.

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Victor Traylor
An expert to the field of Social Justice, Victor formed Disability Help to connect ideas and expertise from the US with rising global cultural leadership, building networks, fostering collaboration, long-term results, mutual benefit, and more extensive international perception.
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