1. Health

Applying for Social Security Disability

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Updated May 29, 2014

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Not everyone who is disabled needs to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. This government benefit is generally for adults who can no longer work because they are permanently disabled or are unable to work for a year or more due to a disabling condition.

Who Should Apply

According to the Social Security Administration, the following individuals may apply for benefits:

  • Individuals aged 18 or older
  • Have worked and paid into the Social Security system
  • Reside in the United States and have a Social Security Number
  • Have a medical condition that is expected to last 12 months or more, or end in death

Children who are disabled must have their representatives apply for Social Security Income for them. A child may receive SSI if they have a physical or mental disability that severely limits their activities and will last longer than a year or end in death. It is also contingent upon income and the family's resources available to the child.

Social Security Disability Application

The most common way to file for disability is via the Social Security Administration website, though you can apply at your local Social Security Office. If you wish to fill out the application in person, you'll need to make an appointment with your local SSA office.

The average time to fill out the application, according to the SSA, is 15 minutes once you've gathered all of the documentation you'll need to refer to, however it may take you slightly longer. Once you start the online application you'll be able to sign off and return to it later if needed.

Documentation for the Application

When filling out your application for Social Security you'll need to gather the following information:

  • Military Discharge Form if you have served
  • Social Security Number for yourself and any minor children
  • Checking or Savings account numbers if you want to sign up for Direct Deposit of benefits
  • Medical history and physician information. Phone numbers, addresses, patient ID numbers and dates of treatments.
  • List of prescriptions, amounts and the physicians who have prescribed them.
  • List of medical tests and their dates related to your disabling conditions and which physician ordered them.
  • List of the last 5 jobs you have worked, your job titles, job descriptions, dates that you worked at the job and address for each business that you worked at.
  • List of any insurance claims or workers compensation claims that were filed as a result of your disabling condition.

What to Expect

After you submit your application, the SSA will review your application and may request additional documentation from you or your physicians who have provided medical treatment. Once they have all of the documentation necessary, they will use a 5-step process to determine eligibility for benefits.

The 5-step process is as follows:

  • As of 2010, your earnings must be $1,000 or less per month
  • Your medical condition must severely limit your ability to work, such as sitting, standing, kneeling or having an impaired memory
  • Your disability is on the state's List of Impairments
  • Are you able to do the work you had been doing before your disability?
  • Could you do any other type of work based on your age, education and current medical condition?

SSA Decision

Once the Social Security Administration has made a decision, they will send a letter notifying you whether you'll will receive benefits or not. This letter is usually sent within 90 days of your application. If they have denied benefits you may appeal the decision online. Additionally, many applicants who are denied benefits seek legal counsel regarding the disposition of their case.

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