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How to Claim Disability Benefits

Claiming Social Security Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration is a multi-step process. Patience and tenacity is name of the game. Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI is available to workers who have been determined disabled by the Social Security Administration and have worked and contributed employment taxes to the Social Security Trust Fund. Disabled claimants who have not paid employment taxes and who have limited income and resources may qualify for Supplemental Security Income or SSI benefits.

How do you claim your disability benefits?

  1. Determine if you are disabled. Do you have a disabling mental or physical impairment which is so severe that you are unable to work for at least 12 months or is the condition expected to eventually cause your death? The Social Security Administration (SSA) will determine if they think you are disabled based on criteria they have established. In general, the SSA must determine you are unable to work your current job and do not have enough residual functional work capacity to be retrained for any other type of employment. Claimants may qualify if they have one severe condition or several conditions which together make it impossible to continue to work. Claimants applying for Social Security Disability Insurance must have earned enough work credits to qualify. The amount of credit needed will vary by age. Claimants do not have to wait 12 months to apply for SSI or SSDI benefits.

  2. Apply for Social Security Disability benefits. This can be done online by visiting the Social Security Administration website at or visiting the nearest Social Security Administration office. Claimants may also call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an in-person or telephone interview. Applicants must bring the following to their Social Security Disability appointments:

    • Copies of all work history information for the past 15 years

    • Copies of your most recent W-2 forms

    • All medical information including: doctors, hospitals, and clinics names, phone numbers and addresses

    • Social Security Number

    • Birth certificate

    • Dependent information

  3. Complete the Social Security Disability application and all necessary forms. Forms must be completed which give the Social Security Administration permission to gather medical records from all the medical facilities and doctors you have visited which have relevant information about your impairments. You must provide the names and addresses of all the medical providers and the dates you received service.

  4. Outline the reasons you are unable to work. You must give information for jobs you have worked in the past 15 years. Information provided will include: the job description, hours worked and the physical and mental requirements for each job.

  5. The Social Security Administration gathers medical documentation from your medical providers. Claimants often wonder why it takes so long for the Social Security Administration to make a decision about a claimant’s disability. Reasons vary, but the main one is the length of time it takes for hospitals and doctors to send medical records to the SSA.  The Social Security Disability examiner can not make a disability determination until they have receive all of your medical records.