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How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits: Requirements and Procedures

by Ryan Kinnar5 min read
how to apply for social security disability

Social Security aims to provide protection for income workers who have lost their ability to work and earn due to total disability. The number of individuals with disability in America is continuously growing. According to the website, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has received a total of 2.3 million applications for the program in 2016.


Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

 To qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, you should be able to meet the following requirements:


  • You must have worked long enough in jobs under Social Security and paid Social Security taxes in the past 10 years
  • You are not capable of doing work you did before due to your disability
  • Your disability interferes with work-related activities
  • Disability is expected to last at least one year or may result in death
  • Your condition is included in Social Security’s list of medical conditions. If your condition is not on the list, SSA will determine whether or not your condition is of equal severity with one on the list.


How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

According to the SSA website, it is advisable to apply right away as soon as you become disabled. SSA determines your protective filing date according to when you first notified them about your intent to file for a claim.


Be prepared for a lengthy process. Disability insurance claims usually take longer than other types of Social Security claims—usually 3 to 5 months. It is advisable to prepare the required information and documents to avoid unnecessary delays in the application process. Here’s a list of personal information you need to secure beforehand:


  • Social Security number
  • Date and place of birth
  • Proof of marriage if spouse is applying for benefits, and dates of prior marriages
  • Proof of age for family members who may qualify for SSDI benefits, as well as their Social Security numbers (if applicable)
  • Names, addresses and contact details of doctors, hospitals, caseworkers, and clinics, as well as dates of consultations and visits
  • A list of all medications and prescribed dosages
  • Medical records
  • Laboratory and test results
  • Employer details or self-employment information
  • Summary of the work you did
  • Latest W-2 form or a copy of your federal tax return if you are self-employed


Apply Personally or Online

For your convenience, you may choose to apply for Social Security disability benefits online. You may also apply personally at the nearest Social Security office. However, it is advisable to schedule an appointment prior to your visit to make sure that you will be attended to. You may call Social Security’s toll-free number 1-800-772-121 to set an appointment.


Completed application forms together with the required documents may be submitted to the SSA either personally through the nearest Social Security office or via mail.


What Happens After I Apply?

If you apply online, Social Security will send you a confirmation that they received your application either electronically or by mail. SSA will review your application and will contact you if they need more information. Once received, SSA will process your application and notify you about their decision.


Social Security’s Disability Starter Kit will provide you with all the information you need to prepare for your disability interview and application. The kit also includes details about specific documents the SSA will require from you, as well as general information about disability programs and SSA decision-making process.