A disability claim is a claim for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Benefits are available for eligible individuals from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or from Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
You can apply online, by telephone, or in person at a local SSA Field Office. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recommends the online process, but please note that applying online does not give you protective filing status. In addition, if you are unsure about anything and wish to ask questions, you can only do that if you apply in person. When filing an initial application, it is important that your Social Security Disability claim is filed within 17 months of the onset of your disability. Be sure to print and keep copies of absolutely everything you submit to the SSA, along with the confirmation that you receive from the SSA upon filing.
The second step in the application process is the personal interview. This interview may be held in person at the Social Security District Office, or conducted over the telephone. The SSA will mail to your home all the paperwork you will need to have ready at your interview.
Your Social Security Disability claim includes not only the application and other SSA paperwork, but also the supporting materials that you must present to document your disabling condition and the way it affects your ability to function. In addition to current and past medical records, the SSA will ask for your birth certificate, proof of citizenship, pertinent medical records, workmens' comp records, military discharge papers, and your most recent W-2. Again, it is extremely important that you keep copies of everything submitted during the application process.
You will need to gather other information as well to take with you to your initial interview. Your interview will go more smoothly and your disability claim will get off to a better start if you assemble the following in advance:
- medical and contact data
- 15-year work history
- the Social Security numbers of your spouse and children
- a list of medications you are currently taking
- your financial information, such as banks and account numbers, and
- a list of persons the SSA should contact if they cannot reach you, together with their telephone numbers
Some of the most important documents you will need to obtain are detailed statements from your doctor, your family, and your friends regarding your disability. Your doctors’ statements should contain not only your diagnosis, but also the SSA, in detail, how your disability keeps you from functioning on a daily basis. The statements from your family and friends should address the same question, telling the SSA what they observe about your physical difficulties at home.
Finally, you need to be able to explain at your interview how your disability limits your ability to function – basically, you must prove to the SSA that you cannot perform any work. Tell the SSA about sleep problems, fatigue, pain, and the like and be very specific. It is best to start documenting your problems in a daily diary. Details are important, and documented details are best.
It sometimes takes months to get your hearing scheduled, so be absolutely sure that you are prepared to attend when the hearing date arrives so that your Social Security Disability application can be heard. In most cases, it is highly advisable to retain a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or advocate to help you fill out your initial Social Security Disability application, and to help you assemble the information you need to present at hearing in the high likelihood that the claim is denied. The process can be arduous, and a qualified Social Security Disability representative can take much of the load off your shoulders and help you get the best possible result for your case.