The Social Security Disability program is a Federal program which provides assistance to people with disabilities. The program is administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under the program.
The first step, once you decide you are going to apply for Social Security Disability, is to obtain and review the Adult Disability Starter Kit. The kit contains the following documents:
- Factsheet – The factsheet includes the definition of disability and answers questions about applying for disability benefits.
- Checklist– This is a checklist of information and documents to have ready for your disability interview or when you complete the online Disability Report.
- Worksheet – The worksheet can help you prepare for your disability interview or complete the Adult Disability Report on the Internet. It lists information that Social Security will ask you and provides space to write down this information.
Apply as soon as you become disabled. Disability benefits do not begin until the sixth full month of disability. The waiting period begins the first full month after the date the Social Security Administration decides your disability began.
To be found disabled according to Social Security’s definition of disability you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical condition(s). For example, in 2010, substantial work means earnings of $1000 or more a month. This amount may go up each year.
- Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year, or be expected to result in your death.
Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year, or be expected to result in your death.
An interesting fact – studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age.
Most Social Security offices do claims-related business by appointment. You can apply (“file”) for benefits in person or by mail or phone.
- Self-Help Guide: Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits
You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online by filling out the Social Security Benefit Application.
There is also an Adult Disability and Work History report you can fill out online.
If you prefer not to apply over the Internet you can apply over the phone by calling the toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST.
You can also apply in person at your local Social Security Administration office.
If you have chosen not to apply online and not to fill out the online Disability Report, you will be interviewed by phone or in the local Social Security office by a Social Security Claims Representative. The interview usually takes at least one hour. Make sure you have the following information listed on the checklist with you for the interview.
- Original or certified copy of birth certificate.
- If born in another country provide proof of U.S. or legal residency.
- If you were in the military, provide the original or certified copy of your military discharge papers.
- Your W-2 form from last year, or if self-employed your federal tax return (IRS 1040 and Schedules C and SE)
- Worker’s compensation history.
- Social Security numbers of your spouse and children.
- Your checking or savings account number.
- Name, address, and phone number of someone who can get in touch with you.
Fill Out Worksheet
Fill out the “Medical and Job Worksheet – Adult”. The worksheet helps prepare you for your interview or to complete the Disability Report online. To fill out the worksheet you will need:
- Names, addresses, phone numbers of all doctors who treated your medical condition.
- Dates you were seen by your doctor and/or dates you were treated at the hospital or clinic.
- It’s helpful to have your patient ID number from each place you have been treated.
- Names of medications you are taking, the reason you are taking the medication, and what doctor prescribed the medication. Some suggest bringing in actual medication bottles.
- What medical tests you have had. You will need to know ehere you were tested, the date of the test, and who ordered the test.
- Have medical records in your possession.
- The jobs and dates you worked in the 15 years before becoming disabled.
Even if you apply online and fill out the Disability Report online, you will copy the information from the worksheet to the online form. So filling out the worksheet ahead of time is helpful.
Hours Available Online
The Disability Report online is available during the following hours Eastern Time:
- Monday through Friday: 5:00 AM – 1:00 AM
- Saturday: 5:00 AM – 11:00 PM
- Sunday: 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM
- Holidays: 5:00 AM – 11:00 PM
By filling out the Disability Report online, you have the ability to work at your own pace, stopping when you want, and coming back to finish later.
Points To Remember
Be prepared to explain in detail why you can no longer work and how your disabling condition has affected your daily activities.
Besides meeting Social Security’s definition of disability, to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must have worked and paid into the program for five of the last 10 years.
What To Do After Receiving an SSI Denial Letter
The first step to take if you receive an SSI denial letter is to take a deep breath and try not to get too upset. Every problem has solutions and this too will resolve with just a little more effort on your part. If you have received a partial denial or a full denial of your claim be advised that the decision can be successfully appealed causing the Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to take another, more in depth, review of your entire case.
The Reconsideration Process
The applicant must first request an appeal of the decision. The request must be made in writing. The Social Security has a special form that can be used for this purpose or you can submit a signed note with your social security number stating that you want to appeal the decision in your case. If the claim was denied for medical reasons you may even make the request for an appeal on-line. In certain cases, if the applicant was already receiving benefits, he may be able to continue receiving the benefits if he requests an appeal within ten days of receiving a denial letter. Generally, an applicant has sixty days starting from the date on the letter noticing him of the adverse decision to request an appeal of that decision. If the request is not made within the sixty day period the right to appeal may be lost.
The next step will be a Social Security complete review of your claim by an employee that did not take any part in the first decision resulting in the denial. The person will look at all the evidence currently on file and, if submitted, he will also consider any new or additional evidence you provide. If the appeal involves a claim of a medical condition or disability the case will be placed under a process called “case review.” Applicants appealing decisions not involving medical conditions can choose to have case review, an information conference, or a formal conference. Case review is a reconsideration process where Social Security does not meet with the applicant but only reviews the contents of the file and any new medical or documentary evidence submitted by the applicant.
Getting Legal Help
If you or a member of your family has received an unfavorable decision from the Social Security, Supplemental Security Income it may be helpful to contact a disability attorney to help to resolve the issues that resulted in the denial and move you forward to a more favorable decision on appeal.