What are the Steps for Applying for Social Security Disability?
If you have become disabled and unable to work you may qualify to receive Social Security Disability payments. The Social Security Administration manages two programs for individuals who are no longer able to work and meet their definition of disabled. Unfortunately, it takes more than a doctors note to qualify for disability benefits. The SSA considers an individual disabled if they do not have the ability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. The Social Security Administration does not provide disability benefits for short-term disabilities which will last for less than 12 months.
Applying For Social Security Disability
The Social Administration has made it easier than ever to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Applicants may apply in person, over the phone or online.
- Fill out the Social Security Disability Application:
For those who have basic computer skills filling out the SSD application online may be the easiest method to use. An applicant can access the Social Security Administrations website from the convenience of their home with their personal computer and will avoid long lines and unscheduled delays at the Social Security Administration office. Applicants can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance online if they are over the age of 18, have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance and they have a mental or physical health condition which does not allow them to work and is expected to last for 12 months or longer. Applicants must also live in the United States or one of its territories.
Applying in Person
Applicants who would prefer to apply in person can call the Social Security Administration Office and request a meeting in person or over the telephone. The Social Security Administration Office number is 1-800-772-1213. In-person or telephone interviews may be more difficult and time consuming but applicants may be able to ask questions and have help completing their Social Security Disability application. It is important to maintain a call log of the names of people you have spoken with and the dates and the times of each conversation.
All applicants will need to provide the following documents:
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
The Social Security Number for the person applying for Social Security Disability Insurance
A valid birth certificate
Information regarding medications taken and laboratory tests performed
All information regarding marriages and dependants (names, ages and birthdates)
Any other information about other public benefits that an individual is receiving
- Claim Is Approved
It generally takes the Social Security Administration several months to evaluate a claimants Social Security Disability application and determine if they qualify for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits. The Social Security Administration will notify the claimant in writing if they are awarded Social Security Disability benefits and the disability notice will contain the benefit amount and the date the Social Security Disability benefits will officially begin. Under some conditions, claimants may receive retroactive payments. Talk to a Social Security Disability lawyer for more information.
- Social Security Disability Review Process
Receiving Social Security Disability benefits is not the final step. Due to advancements in medical technology, it is not uncommon for some claimants to eventually become physically and mentally healthy enough to start working again. The Social Security Disability office will periodically perform a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) to determine if an individual is still disabled. Individuals who have a high probability for improvement may have to submit to a review every 6 to 18 months. Other claimants who have a low chance of improvement may have their Social Security Disability case reviewed approximately every 7 years. Reviews are done by mail, in person or over the telephone.
- Social Security Disability Claim is denied
Most Social Security Disability claims are denied. If you receive a denial you have several choices 1) file a request for a Social Security Disability appeal (the first appeal in most states is the reconsideration) 2) file another Social Security Disability application 3) do not pursue a Social Security Disability claim.
- Request for Reconsideration
Claimants who file a request for reconsideration must do so within 60 days from the date of receiving the Social Security Disability denial letter. Claimants who do not meet the appeal deadline will have to reapply and start the process again.
Applicants have about a 20% chance of receiving an approval at the reconsideration level. The approval or denial may take from 30 days up to 8 months depending on the case load for your region.
- Request for a Social Security Disability Hearing
Applicants who have not already hired a Social Security Disability lawyer generally do so prior to requesting a Social Security Disability hearing. A Social Security Disability Hearing is a chance for you to argue your case before the Administrative Law Judge. This will be your best opportunity to present all relevant medical evidence and prove you are disabled. Hiring a professional who has experience gathering medical records, developing a case and strategically arguing your claim can greatly improve your chances of receiving Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Disability attorney can fully review claim and identify any misconceptions or subjective conclusions which were erroneously made when your Social Security Disability case was initially reviewed by the Social Security Administration. The Administrative Law Judge will review the evidence and make a decision for your case.
If your claim is denied at the Administrative Hearing Level a claimant may request an appeal to the Appeals Counsel and another subsequent appeal can be made in Federal Court. Social Security Disability attorneys can review your denial and determine the next best step for your Social Security Disability claim.