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Applying for Social Security Disability

This page has been updated and replaced by our new Wiki page:

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Income

see also: How to Appeal a Denial of Social Security Disability Benefits

and Social Security Disability Insurance


Social Security Disability

Benefits For People With Disabilities

The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are "insured" meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

Supplemental Security Income pays benefits based on financial need.

When you apply for either program, we will collect medical and other information from you and make a decision about whether or not you meet Social Security's definition of disability.

Use the Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool to find out which programs may be able to pay you benefits


Tips for a Person Applying for Social Security Disability

1.) Apply as soon as you and your doctor consider you disabled.

2.) Keep a diary.

3.) Don't understate your condition, but don't exaggerate either.

4.) Fill out in detail every question on the forms . Add extra pages if you need more space to be complete.

5.) Be descriptive about your condition and how it affects your life . . . give specific examples.

6.) Keep a record of all medication changes, any reactions you may have, how often you take the medications, etc.

7.) Follow medical advice.

8.) Keep a record of how much time you spend traveling to and from the doctor or clinic, how many days a month you do this and how long you wait in the office to be seen.

9.) When something is wrong, don't delay in seeking the doctor's advice, or speaking to the nurse; this way it will be entered into your medical record.

10.)Make sure that all medical evidence about your condition is on file.

11.)Remember the Primary Treating Physician's opinion carries the most weight! The Social Security examiners have never seen you.

12.)Have your doctor do a complete examination and write a letter explaining your condition in detail.

13.)If you're turned down on the initial application, you are entitled to go into the SS office and copy both the medical and non-medical file, but there probably will be a copying charge.

14.)If you are turned down, do not become discouraged, You will probably do better if you appeal and have the appeal handled by a lawyer specializing in appealing such cases. the fees of such lawyers are determined by the Social Security Administration, and are moderate.


Social Security Protection If You Become Disabled

Disability is a subject you may read about in the newspaper, but not think of as something that might actually happen to you. But the chances of becoming disabled are probably greater than you realize. Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age.

While we spend a great deal of time working to succeed in our jobs and careers, few of us think about ensuring that we have a safety net to fall back on should we become disabled. This is an area where Social Security can provide valuable help to you.

This disability planner will explain the benefits available, how you can qualify, and who can receive benefits on your earnings record. It will also explain how to apply for the benefits and what happens when your application is approved.

How You Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

To qualify for benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability. In general, we pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.

Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called "work incentives," that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work.

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.

Let's look at the requirements more closely:

How To Apply for Social Security Disability

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. If you are ready to apply now, you can do so by:

Information We Will Need

Claims for disability benefits take more time to process than other types of Social Security claims--from 60 to 90 days. You can help shorten the process by bringing certain documents with you when you apply, and by helping us get any other medical evidence you need to show that you are disabled. Here is what you should bring us:

Information About You:

Information About Family Members:

IMPORTANT: You will need to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. You can mail or bring them to Social Security. We will make photocopies and return your original documents. If you don't have all the documents you need, don't delay filing for benefits. We will help you get the information you need.

To help you understand the information we need to decide if you are disabled, you may use our self help guide.

If Your Application Is Denied

After we have reviewed your application and the information you have provided, we may decide that you do not meet the qualifications for disability benefits.

If you disagree with that decision, you have the right to ask us to look at your application again. The notice you receive from us that says you don't qualify will explain how to make that request and the time period in which you must make it.

NOTE: People who don't have enough work credits to be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits may possibly qualify for Supplemental Security Income if they have limited income and resources

When Your Benefits Start

If your application is approved, your first Social Security benefit will be paid for the sixth full month after the date we find that your disability began.

For example, if your disability began on June 15, 2003, your first benefit would be paid for the month of December 2003, the sixth full month of disability. Social Security benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they're due. This means that the benefit due for December would be paid to you in January 2004, and so on.

Disability Evaluation Under Social Security
(Blue Book- January 2003)

Part III - Listing Of Impairments (Overview)

The Listing of Impairments describes, for each major body system, impairments that are considered severe enough to prevent a person from doing any gainful activity (or in the case of children under age 18 applying for SSI, cause marked and severe functional limitations). Most of the listed impairments are permanent or expected to result in death, or a specific statement of duration is made. For all others, the evidence must show that the impairment has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. The criteria in the Listing of Impairments are applicable to evaluation of claims for disability benefits or payments under both the Social Security disability insurance and SSI programs.

Part A

This section of the Listing of Impairments contains medical criteria that apply to adults age 18 and over. The medical criteria in Part A may also be applied in evaluating impairments in persons under age 18 if the disease processes have a similar effect on adults and younger persons.

Part B

This section of the Listing of Impairments contains additional medical criteria that apply only to the evaluation of impairments of persons under age 18. Certain criteria in Part A do not give appropriate consideration to the particular effects of the disease processes in childhood, i.e., when the disease process is generally found only in children or when the disease process differs in its effect on children and adults.

Additional criteria are included in Part B, and the impairment categories are, to the extent possible, numbered to maintain a relationship with their counterparts in Part A. In evaluating disability for a person under age 18, Part B will be used first. If the medical criteria in Part B do not apply, then the medical criteria in Part A will be used.

The criteria in the Listing of Impairments apply only to one step of the multi-step sequential evaluation process. At that step, the presence of an impairment that meets the criteria in the Listing of Impairments (or that is of equal severity) is usually sufficient to establish that an individual who is not working is disabled.

However, the absence of a listing-level impairment does not mean the individual is not disabled. Rather, it merely requires the adjudicator to move on to the next step of the process and apply other rules in order to resolve the issue of disability.

From: Social Security Online


Applying For Social Security Disability Income

Richard & Gail Stokes
God Awful Headache!


I am putting this information together in hopes that it will help aneurysm victims and their family get their entitled benefits with as little complication as possible. This is my way of trying to give back something for all of the support my wife and I have received from the support group. I have been an accountant for 20 years and have over the years prepared a few disability claims for my clients. These claims though few in number have been sucessful upon first application. I hadn't any idea I would be preparing one for my wife. I cannot guarantee your end result, only help you along the way.

To Qualify For SSDI:

If you worked 5 of the last 10 years and accumulated, what Social Security calls, 20 credits and cannot work you should be entitled to Social Security Disability Income. You must be disabled 6 months to qualify and will be disabled at least 12 months to receive benefits. If you have dependent children living at home they may receive dependent benefits too.

What are credits?

Simply put, if you have earned at least $1,700 per calendar year as an employee or self-employed and those earnings were report to the Social Security Administration by your employer or on your income tax return as a self-employed person, you should have received 4 credits for that calendar year.

Presentation and Preparation:

I can't express this enough! You will need to spend several hours when it comes time to preparing the actual Social Security forms. This is part or possibly all of your financial future you are dealing with, be patient and thorough in preparing the forms. It would be a simple process if you could meet face to face with the decision makers, but you won't meet them face to face! The only time you would meet with the decision makers, would most likely be upon the "second appeal" process! By this time many months have gone by and you would probably need to have legal counsel at this hearing, costing you money. If the forms are properly prepared and you present you answers properly and thoroughly, all that can be avoided. You can be receiving benefits in 60 to 90 days instead of 14 to 16 months and several dollars later.

Before You Contact Social Security:

Get copies of ALL medical records from the beginning, whether you started in an emergency room or with your family doctor. Get EVERY DOCUMENT, they have to give you copies of your records, it is your right by law. The victim will have to sign the request letter, state the victim's name, date of birth, social security number, dates of treatment, the doctor's name(s), etc. List specifically what reports you want, i.e. "diagnosis, clinical, operative, post operative, radiology, lab and any other reports relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of the condition." You will also want to get copies of all post operative follow visits. The more information you provide, the less hassle you will have because you are dealing with records clerks who aren't familiar with your case. If there is a processing fee, pay it. Some places charge a copying fee and some don't. Keep after it and don't get frustrated, it may take awhile to get the copies. Case in point, my wife was in 5 hospitals after her aneurysm ruptured and they discovered a second one. It took 3 months to get the records from one of the hospitals' but I knew we had to have them. If you don't get the records in 2 weeks time, call them and keep calling every couple of weeks. BE CALM AND POLITE to the records clerks no matter how frustrated you are, to act otherwise could cause you additional problems!

Keep the records separate by institution and/or doctor, get to a copy machine and make copies. I would suggest several copies of each.

Contacting Social Security:

Anyone can assist the victim with the application process, that is the victim's right! They may want authorization from the victim, this is the person they want helping them. Usually, a verbal confirmation is all that is required.

ALWAYS CALM AND POLITE, tell SSA who you are, that you are helping (name), social security number, "in applying for social security disability." The representative will ask a few simple questions and will probably set up a time for an interview. It may be possible to do the interview by telephone. During the interview, ALWAYS BEING CALM AND POLITE, have all the information at hand including the victim. You will need to know everything possible about the victim's employment and benefits i.e. wages, sick leave, etc. Chances are you already know this information. The interview is easy, nothing to be uptight about! After the interview you will receive some paperwork to fill out, this is where the work begins, patience and thoroughness are a must!

Disability Report-Adult-Form SSA-3368-BK:

There are 2 very important forms to fill out, this is the first. The representative you dealt with will forward this form on to a Disability Examiner when you return it to SSA. Presentation and Preparation are everything, that's the whole ball game. By that I mean, answer every question honestly, thoroughly and neatly. There are questions like, "What are the illnesses, injuries or conditions that limit your ability to work?" and "How do your illnesses, injuries or conditions limit your ability to work?" You cannot answer these questions on the two or three lines provided and give a thorough answer. Indicate on the lines after the question "See Attached Narrative" and on a sheet of paper (typed is good) list the section, question number, state the question and give your narrative answer. A thorough narrative answer, even if it takes more than one page and be detailed. There aren't that many questions you need to do this for. When you are done, make copies of your answers you may need to submit the narrative answer with another form, this will save you time in having to do it over again and you maintain consistent answers.

This form requests information on hospitals and doctors. Give complete names, addresses, phone numbers, what ever is needed. Again if there isn't enough space use a separate sheet of paper following the format above.

This is where your diligent effort in collecting all the medical records comes into play! You will send copies of those records with this form. If you don't the disability examiner will have to request all the records from the institution or doctor and that can take alot of time and delay.

Daily Activities and Symptoms Report:

This is the second form you will have to fill out and will come from the disability examiner. The examiner will probably be from a different branch and may be in a different city. You may feel that some of the questions on this form are stupid and/or invasive! Put your feelings aside, this is just part of the game, you have to answer the questions remembering ALWAYS BEING CALM AND POLITE! Also remembering, this is the victim's financial well being future you are representing!

Answer the questions thoroughly, you probably won't need to do the additional sheet of paper answers. However, if you need to use a sheet of paper use the format I mentioned earlier, section (if applicable) question number, state the question and give your answer.

This form will ask for 3 persons who know you and you authorize to give information about how your condition(s) effects you. It would be best to list 3 good friends instead of family members because they are unrelated independent sources of information. Tell these people you have listed them, so they aren't surprised if they receive a call or letter. This doesn't mean that they will be contacted, only maybe.

When you receive this form it will probably identify the disability examiner assigned to your case. Call the examiner and ask if there is any additional information he/she would like. This may be where additional copies of your earlier narrative answers may come in handy by sending them along with this form. In particular the answers to the 2 questions I identified earlier. AGAIN, ALWAYS BEING CALM AND POLITE, no matter how stressed, tired, frustrated or irritated you may be. To act otherwise will only hurt you!

In Summary:

If you are reading this, then you have been down a very difficult road already! Applying for and getting social security disability benefits are just a small bump on that road, you have gotten past the big bumps. You are dealing with a huge impersonal bureaucracy through their employees, who are human beings like you and me, that have to follow massive complicated regulation manuals. Be kind to them, help them want to help you.

If you have specific questions or need clarity on something feel free to email me at, I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Good Luck, you can do this successfully!


Social Security Disability Secrets


Applying for Social Security Disability 

Frequently Asked Questions


Filing For Disability Benefits


What to Know When Applying for Social Security Disability


How To Talk with your Physician about Supporting your Disability Claim


National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives


Disability Planner


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