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How to File for Social Security Disability

An individual's physical or mental disability can significantly limit his or her ability to earn an adequate living. Two federal programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI), provide monetary benefits to those who are unable to work because of an ongoing medical condition. To be eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits, you must have a disabling medical condition that has lasted for 12 months or is likely to result in death.

This article explains how to file for Social Security Disability benefits (either SSDI or SSI). See "Social Security Disability" for a complete index of FindLaw articles on this topic.

Information You Will Need

Before you apply for SSDI or SSI benefits, typically completed online, you will need to gather the following documents and information:

  • Dates of all marriages and divorces
  • Names and birth dates of your spouse and minor children
  • Military service discharge information for all active duty periods (if applicable)
  • Federal income statements (W-2 or 1040) from last year
  • Bank account and bank routing numbers (if you choose direct deposit of benefit checks)

You will need the following information for your disability report:

  • Name and contact information of a reference who can discuss your medical condition(s) with a Social Security Administration (SSA) representative
  • Names, contact information, patient ID numbers, and treatment dates for all relevant medical service providers (gather any medical records you may have)
  • Prescription medications you are taking, plus the name of the prescribing doctor (have your prescription bottles handy)
  • Dates of medical tests, including referring doctors
  • List of all jobs you had 15 years prior to having a disability that prevented you from being able to work, including dates (up to five jobs)
  • Information about workers' compensation claims or insurance claims filed (claim number and name, contact information of insurance company)

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Online

Once you have gathered all of the pertinent information, you may begin the application process. SSA encourages applicants to apply for benefits online, which eliminates the need for an appointment.

The application consists of three sections:

  1. Disability Benefit Application - This part of the process takes anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes, and allows applicants to save their information and return later to finish
  2. Adult Disability Report - This can take up to 90 minutes to complete and also allows applicants to save their information and return at a later time
  3. Authorization to Disclose Information Form (PDF) - This should be printed and filled out, signed, and mailed to your nearest Social Security office.

Those applying for SSI benefits on behalf of a disabled child may also apply online through a similar process (see "Apply for Disability Benefits - Child" for more information).

Applying for Benefits by Telephone or In Person

If you choose not to use the online application form, you may call 1-800-772-1213 (TDY 1-800-325-0778 for the hearing impaired) or schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office.

You may be asked to show the following documents in order to prove your eligibility (also, refer to the "Information You Will Need" section, above):

Need Help With Your Claim? Contact a SSDI Attorney

While you most likely will not need help from legal counsel for the application process, some cases are more complicated than others. A skilled attorney will be able to help you secure the benefits you're entitled to. Find a Social Security disability lawyer in your area if you need more help learning how to file a Social Security disability claim.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified social security lawyer to assist in your social security disability matter.

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