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Social Security Disability Application: Steps To Follow

by Megan Roth5 min read
social security disability application

The Social Security Disability application process can be challenging. Approval rates are reportedly dropping, with just 36% of claims filed from years 2004 to 2013.


Despite this, the number of persons with disability in America is continuously on the rise. According to a report, Social Security is providing an estimated $143 billion in disability benefits each year to about 11 million Americans, with monthly payments averaging at $1,171. The Social Security Administration (SSA) received 2.3 million applications for the program in 2016, according to its website.


When to Apply for Benefits

 As soon as you become disabled, you can proceed with your Social Security Disability application. Benefits will be received starting the sixth full month of disability. The waiting period typically starts with the first full month after the date disability began.


Social Security Disability Application Procedure

  1. Determine eligibility


To qualify for disability benefits, a person should be able to meet the following requirements:


  • Inability to perform work that you did before due to disability
  • Disability interferes with work-related activities
  • Your condition should be included on SSA’s list of medical conditions. For conditions not on the list, SSA will make the decision whether or not your condition is of equal severity with one on the list.
  • You must have worked long enough under Social Security. You need to have 40 work credits to qualify for the benefit, and 20 of these credits should have been earned in the last 10 years until the year you became disabled.
  • Special situations defined by SSA


  1. Secure important documents


Before applying for Social Security disability benefits, you must be able to prepare the required information and documents. You will need the following:


  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of citizenship or lawful alien status
  • Military discharge papers
  • Medical evidence, medical records, recent test results and doctor’s reports
  • Tax forms
  • Social Security number
  • Proof of compensation benefits
  • Date and place of birth
  • Current or former spouse’s details and Social Security number
  • Places and dates of marriages and divorces
  • Names and birth dates of children
  • Bank information
  • Information about your disability (doctors’ information, current prescriptions, treatment records, medical tests information)
  • Name and contact details of a person who knows about your medical condition
  • Employer details and self-employment information
  • Copy of your Social Security Statement


  1. Apply Online or Personally


You have the option to apply online or personally in the nearest Social Security office. If you want to apply in person, it is advisable to schedule an appointment by calling their toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 so you can avoid waiting in line.


  1. Submit Application


You must submit completed application forms together with the required documents and medical evidence to the SSA. You have the option to submit personally in the nearest Social Security office or through mail. Once submitted, it could take about three to five months to determine whether or not you are eligible for disability benefits.


Social Security Disability Application Notification

 Social Security will notify you whether your disability benefits claim has been approved or not. If your claim was denied, you may file for an appeal. This process may take several months due to appeal hearings. You may, however, speed up the scheduling of hearing by submitting a “dire need” letter, requesting a congressional inquiry or submitting an on-the-record review request.


social security disability application


In applying for Social Security disability benefits, it is important to understand the process in order to increase your chances of getting approved. Provide as much information as you can and respond quickly to Social Security requests for information. For more information about the application process and disability interviews, refer to the SSA’s Disability Starter Kit.



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