How to File for Social Security Disability Benefits

Submitted by rsg on

You’ve worked hard all your life and now you’re living with a disability that prevents you from maintaining gainful employment. This is why the federal disability benefits programs are in place: to help people who meet their living expenses when a serious condition impacts their ability to support themselves and their families.

Depending on your circumstances, you could apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is intended for adults who can no longer work due to a disability, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which helps elderly, blind, and people experiencing a disabling condition who have little or no income or resources. While many steps in the application process are similar for both programs, there are some differences that will be explained below.

Applying Online

If you are applying for SSDI, you can complete the application form online, provided you are aged 18 or older, are not currently receiving benefits on your own SS record, cannot work due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or end in death, and have not received an application denial in the last 60 days. With SSI, you can complete a portion of the application online, but the rest will have to be completed in person.

Applying in Person

If you are applying for SSI, you have to undergo a personal interview with an SSA representative. These benefits are needs-based, so the representative will also ask questions about your financial situation, including any and all income you may be receiving. With SSDI, applying in person is not required, but could potentially decrease any unnecessary claim delays. In either case, you can call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule the interview or visit your local SSA office.

Applying Over the Phone

SSDI applicants can apply over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is important to note that getting through can be difficult and you may be put on hold for an extended period of time.

What To Have When Applying for Disability Benefits

Regardless of what method you use to apply, there are certain documents you will need to provide so that the SSA can make an informed decision about your case. They include but may not be limited to:

  • Proof of birth, such as a birth certificate
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residence
  • W-2 form and/or self-employment tax returns for last year
  • Medical documentation, such as doctors’ reports, treatment records, and recent test results
  • An Adult Disability Report with information about your work history and condition(s), such as illnesses or injuries

The SSA has an adult disability application checklist that you can review to ensure that you have everything you need to apply.

Get Help Applying

Applying for SSDI and SSI benefits can be more complicated than you think. It takes time, the paperwork is extensive, and a minor mistake on the application form can result in a denial.

A Social Security Disability attorney can help you complete the application and disability report forms and guide you through any appeal that may occur. To contact a lawyer who can assist you in making a strong case for benefits, complete the Free Case Evaluation form.

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