Steps to apply for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income : Your journey to qualify for SSD or SSI benefits begins in the same fashion. You need to file an application. If you are applying for SSD, you can apply in person at your local SSA office, online via the SSA’s website or you can request that an application be mailed to you by contacting the SSA via telephone. If you wish to apply online, here is the link to the site:
www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability/adult.htm. If you are applying for SSI, you cannot submit an application online. This benefit application must be done in one of the other two ways listed above. If you have questions concerning the requirements of each of these benefits, see my blog entitled, “What is the difference between SSD and SSI?”
Many lawyers/representatives require that you have an application submitted before they will meet with you and consider taking on your case. The reason for this is a good one. If you win at the initial application phase and you applied on your own, you do not owe a lawyer or representative a fee. With that said, if you want or need help, our office is willing to help you with the entire application process, including submitting it to the SSA on your behalf and ensuring it is processed correctly.
With that said, your best chances for success involve preparation! Before you submit your application, gather up as much medical evidence as you can concerning the nature of your disability/illness. Call your doctors’ offices and ask for a copy of your records, or at least the results of any serious diagnostic testing you have undergone. The SSA representative who reviews your application will want to see some form of medical evidence. The more you are able to get, the better. You also want to make sure that you are not working or carrying out what the SSA calls “substantial gainful activity”. If you are working up to your application date or after it, you will likely find that your claim is denied. It’s nearly impossible to prove that a person is disabled and cannot work if they are working, right?
In addition, understand that you will be asked for a lot of information throughout the application. Do not panic if you do not have all of these items, the SSA will contact you and obtain what they need after your application is submitted. Understand that the best way to avoid more delays than are required is to provide as much information as possible in your application. Here is a list of things that you should try to collect ahead of time:
- Your Social Security card or number (and that of your spouse if you are married).
- Your birth certificate or another proof of your age.
- Proof of US citizenship or non-citizen status.
- A list of the names, telephone numbers and addresses of all of the doctors you are seeing or have seen for your disabilities/illnesses. This list should include any hospitals you have been seen at and any medical facilities where you have had testing (MRIs, X-rays, biopsies, etc.) You will also need the approximate dates you have seen each doctor/been seen at each facility.
- A list of all medications that you are currently taking including the dosage information, what each medication is for, any side effects you experience from each of them and the name of the doctor prescribing each one.
- A list of your disabilities and a few notes concerning how they limit your ability to work.
- A list of your previous jobs and a rough timeline for when you worked each of those jobs.
- If your disability is at all related to a job related injury/injuries, you should bring information concerning the pertinent Worker’s Compensation insurance carriers and any and all claim numbers.
- Your military service history including the dates of service and information concerning any veteran’s benefits that you are receiving.
If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you will also be required to demonstrate proof of limited income and assets. This benefit is a need based benefit for those who have extremely limited savings, assets, resources, etc. You will need to provide information concerning your bank account balances, assets in your name, your living situation, your spouses income and income received from any sources. If the SSA determines that your income and assets are greater than the limits imposed, you cannot qualify for this benefit no matter how severe your disability or illness is. If you have questions concerning the specifics regarding income and asset requirements, you can visit the SSA’s website at https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-resources-ussi.htm for a complete list.
Now, I have a couple of pointers to share concerning your application. Firstly, when describing your past work experiences, do not focus on your title or your responsibilities. Proving to the SSA that you are marketable and were successful in your jobs is not the goal here. Instead, when describing your past work, be sure to include the physical requirements of each of those jobs and how your current limitations preclude you from being able to carry out those duties as you once did. Be sure to include points concerning how much your previous jobs required you to do things like walk, sit, stand, bend and lift. Juxtapose those requirements against your current limitations in these areas. This is very important.
Also, if you have any physical or mental disabilities, limitations or problems involving any body parts or systems other than your specific disability, make sure to list all of these problems on your application. It is important to make all of your limitations clear.
Another important piece of advice I can share comes from years of seeing the same mistakes on hundreds of applications. This advice is to be careful and thorough! Many people rush through, leave answers blank and assume the SSA will fill in the blanks for them. This is not the case! They will not take the time to do the work you should have done. You place yourself at a huge disadvantage if you do not provide them the information they need to qualify you. So, take the time to have all the information together that they are asking for. Plug in each and every doctors name and all of their contact information. Do not cut any corners or assume you will look “more disabled” by being unable to complete the required paperwork. This is a serious process, and you need to be organized. If your disability or illness precludes you from submitting your application, give us a call. We will help you.
Now comes my advice regarding your proof of submission. The SSA loses things. They also make mistakes. So, whether you submit your application online or in person, get a printed confirmation at the end of the submission process. If you are filing in person, ask the representative for his/her name and a copy of the confirmation that your application has been submitted. This confirmation will be your proof that your application was submitted should it be lost.