If you suffer from a medical condition or disability that leaves you unable to work, you may be able to apply for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). These benefits can help you pay for your medical bills and every day living expenses. There are three ways you can apply for social security benefits: at your local SSA office, online, or with the help of a disability lawyer or advocate.
There are over 1,200 social security offices located throughout the country, and there is at least one in each state. It is important that you make an appointment before you go to the office, as you will be given a “disability interview” by a claims representative (CR).
The CR will do your disability interview and intake, meaning they will record all of your information before passing along your application, most likely to a disability examiner. You should bring records of your complete medical history, work history, and any relevant treatment history for your condition. The CR will also ask you about any marriages, children, and military service, as well as your income and assets.
If you are unable to leave your home for any reason, you may also be able to schedule a disability interview over the phone with your local SSA office.
There are a few benefits to applying for disability benefits online. You can start your application immediately, without having to make an appointment, and from the convenience of your own home. You can also save your application and go back to it later, allowing you to take as much time as you need to fill it out.
To apply for disability benefits online, you must:
- Be over 18 years old
- Not currently receive disability benefits
- Be currently disabled
- Haven’t been denied disability benefits in the past 60 days
To complete your application, you should have all information about your medical condition, work history, and personal history readily available. You will most likely need most or all of the following documents that relate to your case:
- Birth certificate
- Proof of citizenship
- Military discharge papers
- W-2s or other tax forms
- Medical forms
- Pay stubs
Attorney or Advocate Help
Your third option for filing for disability benefits, if applying at a local office or online seems intimidating, is to seek the help of a disability attorney or non-attorney representative, such as an advocate. You can hire a disability lawyer or advocate before you even start your benefits application to help you fill out your application, gather the necessary documentation, and get your claim filed with the SSA.
At this stage in the process, you are still the point of contact with the SSA, not the lawyer. They will become your official representative later on in the claims process. If your claim has been denied and you wish to appeal, the help of a lawyer will be necessary.