Disability benefits provide essential support for disabled individuals and often their immediate family members or dependents. These benefits can actually come in two forms: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
For SSI, a personal interview with an Social Security Administration (SSA) representative is a standard part of the process, but applying in person for SSDI can potentially increase your chances of approval, or at least decrease the chances of unnecessary delays with your claim.
SSI Application Interviews
SSI benefits are need-based, meaning they not only require you have a qualifying medical condition, but also that you meet the financial eligibility rules. You must have limited income and other financial resources, and while the SSA only counts some finances, they still need to know the complete picture of your personal finances, including income, assets, living arrangements, bills, and any support you receive from other sources.
During the SSI interview, the SSA’s representative that helps you will ask a series of questions and walk you through all of the necessary details. He or she will fill out your application for you and submit it for review.
You can learn more about the kinds of information you’ll need to gather for your interview by reviewing the Adult Disability Starter Kit. After getting together the necessary documentation, you can call the SSA's main helpline at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an in-person or phone interview, or you can visit your local SSA office.
Applying for SSDI in Person
An in-person interview isn’t required for the SSDI application process but visiting the local office can potentially be beneficial. The SSA representative with whom you meet can help walk you through the whole process, explain the different benefits available, and help ensure you don’t make any mistakes that can possibly delay your claim or cause you to be denied unnecessarily.
If you don’t feel a visit to the local office is necessary, there are other application options available to you for SSDI. You can sometimes apply over the phone, by calling 1-800-772-1213, though it can be difficult to get through and you may wait on hold for a significant period. You can additionally submit an SSDI application online, and the SSA’s website walks you through all the required forms for applying.
Using the Online Application to Jumpstart an SSI Claim
Although a personal interview is always necessary for SSI, you can use the online SSDI application process to jumpstart your SSI claim. Even if you know you cannot qualify for SSDI, the SSA will accept the online application and use it as the basis for finalizing your SSI claim. They will contact you to schedule a phone or in-person interview to finish up the SSI application process.
Is it Better to Apply for Disability Online or in Person?
Applying for disability benefits in person is beneficial because working with a representative at your local field office will decrease your chances of making mistakes when compiling all of your information. Contact your local office to set up an appointment in order to decrease waiting time when you arrive. If you are feeling confident in your application process, the materials on the SSA’s website will properly guide you in your online application.
Getting Help with Your Social Security Disability Claim
Whether you apply in person, over the phone, or via the internet, you don’t have to go through the process alone. You can get help with your claim from a friend, family member, social worker or an SSA representative. You can also seek the assistance of Social Security advocate or attorney at any stage, even before starting your application for benefits. An advocate or attorney can potentially help boost your claim, protect you from unnecessary delays, spur your application forward if it stalls out, and help you file appeals and fight for benefits, if you’re initially denied Social Security benefits.