Applying for Social Security Disability

Applying for Social Security Disability

A guide for applying for social security disability benefits


The Process

Applying

There are two ways to apply for social security disability benefits: 

  1. directly with a representative from social security (in person or online), or
  2. online, through the social security website: https://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/

Application Process Time

Claims for disability benefits take more time to process than other types of Social Security claims -- from 3 to 5 months.

Information Needed to Apply

The Social Security Administration suggests that you have the following information at hand when going through the application process:

Information About You

  • Your date and place of birth and Social Security number
  • The name, Social Security number and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. You should also know the dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if appropriate)
  • Names and dates of birth of your minor children
  • Your bank or other financial institution's Routing Transit Number [more info] and the account number, if you want the benefits electronically deposited

Information About Your Medical Condition

  • Name, address and phone number of someone we can contact who knows about your medical conditions and can help with your application
  • Detailed information about your medical illnesses, injuries or conditions:
    • Names, addresses, phone numbers, patient ID numbers and dates of treatment for all doctors, hospitals and clinics;
    • Names of medicines you are taking and who prescribed them; and
    • Names and dates of medical tests you have had and who sent you for them.

Information About Your Work

  • The amount of money earned last year and this year
  • The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year
  • A copy of your Social Security Statement
  • The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service you had before 1968
  • A list of the jobs (up to 5) that you had in the 15 years before you became unable to work and the dates you worked at those jobs
  • Information about any workers' compensation, black lung, and/or similar benefits you filed, or intend to file for. These benefits can:
    • Workers' Compensation;
    • Black Lung Benefits;
    • Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation;
    • Civil Service (Disability) Retirement;
    • Federal Employees' Retirement;
    • Federal Employees' Compensation;
    • State or local government disability insurance benefits; or
    • Disability benefits from the military (This includes military retirement pensions based on disability but not Veterans' Administration (VA) benefits.)
    • Be temporary or permanent in nature;
    • Include annuities and lump sum payments that you received in the past;
    • Be paid by your employer or your employer's insurance carrier, private agencies, or Federal, State or other government or public agencies; and
    • Be referred to as:
      • Workers' Compensation;
      • Black Lung Benefits;
      • Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation;
      • Civil Service (Disability) Retirement;
      • Federal Employees' Retirement;
      • Federal Employees' Compensation;
      • State or local government disability insurance benefits; or
      • Disability benefits from the military (This includes military retirement pensions based on disability but not Veterans' Administration (VA) benefits.)

Documents You May Need

The Social Security Administration notes that you may be required to provide the following documents to prove eligibility: 

  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States [more Info];
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968;
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year;
  • Medical evidence already in your possession [more info]. This includes medical records, doctors' reports, and recent test results; and
  • Award letters, pay stubs, settlement agreements or other proof of any temporary or permanent workers' compensation-type benefits you received [more info].
 

Common Types of Social Security Disability Benefits

Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI)

SSDI pays benefits to people who cannot work because of certain medical conditions. 

To qualify, a person must: 

  • be under 65 years old,
  • have a qualifying severe disability as designated by the Social Security Administration, and
  • have paid a certain amount of Social Security tax over a period of time. 

In general, a person must have worked and paid Social Security tax for about 5 of the last 10 years before the disability began. 

For benefits, the amount of SSDI benefit is dependent on a person's previous earnings record. 

Note that you should consult with an attorney to determine your specific eligibility. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

A person can be eligible for SSI regardless of whether the individual has paid enough Social Security tax to get SSDI benefits. 

To qualify, a person must: 

  • be over 65, have a qualifying severe disability as designated by the Social Security Administration, or be over 65; and 
  • have little income or property.