How To Get Disability Benefits: A Step-By-Step Guide

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If you are unable to work and earn a living, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for and possibly get approved for Social Security disability benefits.

Your key to a successful disability claim is to provide supporting documentation and hard medical evidence. Here is a rundown of how to get your claim on track.

A Step-By-Step Guide For Getting A Disability Claim Underway

Step 1: Determine Medical Eligibility: If you are unable to work for at least 12 months, check to make sure your condition and its symptoms meet the criteria of a Blue Book listing. The Blue Book has sections for different body systems, and each section has listings for disabling conditions.

Step 2: Meet Non-Medical Requirements: To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have enough work credits. In general, that means you must have worked the equivalent of 5 years full-time out of the last 10 years. To qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must meet very specific financial criteria, such as income and asset requirements.

Step 3: Gather Medical Evidence: Gather medical evidence to show you meet the criteria of a Blue Book listing. Talk with your doctors about your condition and ask your physician if he or she thinks you would qualify for disability benefits.

Your physician can also help you gather the medical records and documentation you need for a successful disability claim. Your doctor can also provide a letter in support of your claim or complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) form that details your restrictions and limitations.

Step 4: Speak with an Attorney or Advocate: A Social Security disability lawyer or disability advocate can assist you in applying for disability benefits and improve the likelihood of your claim’s success. They will know what documentation is needed and can determine if you have evidence supporting your claim so that it meets the criteria of a listing.

Step 4: Apply for Disability Benefits: You can apply for disability benefits online at, over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 and speaking with a representative, or in person by scheduling an appointment at your local SSA field office and meeting with a SSA representative.

What is the Maximum Age to Apply for Social Security Disability?

 Get Help Applying for Benefits

The SSA reports that claimants represented by a disability attorney are much more likely to succeed with their claims and be awarded disability benefits.

If you are unable to work because of a health problem, you should consult with a disability attorney who represents clients in your area. Disability lawyers do not require payment upfront, and instead, are only paid after your claim has been approved.

Complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share the details of your disability claim with a disability lawyer. A lawyer will be able to best determine how to proceed with your claim and if you have the supporting documentation needed for your disability claim.


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