How to Apply for Social Security Disability


Receiving the news that your health and medical condition will keep you from being able to work in the future can be devastating. You might already be having physical pain, unable to care for yourself, and wondering how you will pay your medical bills. Now an uncertain future awaits you. You are not alone as millions of people suffer from disabilities and are unable to work because of them.

The best next step is to determine if you might qualify for any type of government assistance for your disability. One of these forms of aid is Social Security Disability. These benefits are paid to eligible Americans who cannot work due to a diagnosed and documented medical condition that is expected to last at least a year or result in their death. Keep reading to learn how to apply for Social Security Disability and other important information about this benefit.

We have more resources to help you in our Social Security Disability Resource Guide.

Talk to Your Physician and a Social Security Disability Attorney

If you think you might qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD), discuss it first with your physician. Your doctor can tell you whether you have a disability that genuinely keeps you from performing your job or any other gainful employment. During this time, you can also ascertain whether your doctor would be willing to write a statement or complete a medical source statement detailing why your medical condition has created a disability for you and prevents you from working.

Even if your doctor is not convinced that you would qualify for SSD, it is always wise to schedule a consultation with a seasoned SSD lawyer. An experienced attorney will have represented many claimants and be able to tell you if your claim has merit and is likely to be approved. While they cannot guarantee results, they do have the experience to know what types of claims generally get approved or denied and how to increase the chances of winning your claim. You may want to ask the attorney questions such as:

  • How long will it take to apply for Social Security Disability?
  • When will I know if my claim is approved or not?
  • Will I have to go before a judge?
  • What information will I need to complete my application?
  • What documentation is required?
  • How can I best contact you?

[READ MORE: 10 Questions to Ask Your Social Security Disability Lawyer]

Preparing to File your SSD Claim

The SSD application is in-depth and asks many different questions about various aspects of your life. Before filling out this application, it is best to be prepared with the information and documentation it will ask for. When you apply, or your SSD attorney helps you apply, you will need to have on hand:

  • The social security numbers for everyone in your household, including yourself
  • Information from your previous year’s W-2
  • Discharge papers for any military services for each active period of duty
  • The contact information for your physicians who are treating you
  • Dates of treatments
  • Names of any medications that you may be taking
  • Names of the doctors who prescribed these medications
  • Information about any worker’s compensation claims you have filed in the past
  • Information about the type of work you have performed and what your last five jobs were
  • Copies of your medical records (these can help expedite your claim)
  • Information about your education and training
  • Other disability-related information

How to Apply for Social Security Disability

Once you have determined that you could be eligible to receive SSD, your next step is to find out how to apply for Social Security Disability. Depending on your age and other circumstances, your Social Security Disability application can be completed in the following ways:

  • Online on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website
  • Over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or if you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call TTY 1-800-325-0778
  • Visiting your local SSA office

Check with your SSD lawyer about the best way to apply in your situation. The method that you use to apply will not impact the success of your case, as long as your application is accurate and complete. However, your attorney might have a preferred method for clients to use. If your Social Security Disability attorney is helping you file online, you must:

  • Be at least age 18
  • Not be currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record
  • Be unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death
  • Have not been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days

The SSA Consultative Exam

Depending on your disability, medical condition, and the completeness of your medical records as well as other factors, you may be asked to attend a consultative exam as a part of the SSD application process. The purpose of the exam is to evaluate the extent of your disability and to determine whether your condition meets the SSD guidelines.

It is imperative to the success of your case that you show up for this exam. If you do not have the exam, your case could be denied based on that fact alone.

It is essential to know that even though this consultative exam is an important step in how to apply for Social Security Disability, it is not the only part that matters. Statements from your treating physicians and objective medical evidence can be given more weight in the determination process.

How Long Does It Take to Process an SSD Application?

If you are wondering how to apply for Social Security Disability, you may also be wondering how long it will take for the SSA to process your application once it is received. Depending on the number of applications they are receiving, it will take an estimated four to six months for the SSA office to process your application. Sometimes it can even take longer. If you have dire circumstances that warrant the expediting of your claim, such as terminal illness or grave financial circumstances like facing the loss of your home, your SSD lawyer might be able to speed up the process.

First, your application will be processed to determine if it meets the work credit eligibility set up by the SSA. If it does not, your application will be denied based on technicalities. If it does meet those requirements, it will then be reviewed by an SSA medical reviewer who will determine if your medical condition creates a disability that keeps you from performing gainful work. If the reviewer decides that it is not, your application will be denied on this basis.

If your SSD claim is approved, you will receive a letter telling you how much money you are entitled to collect on a monthly basis and whether you will receive any back pay. Keep in mind that up to 25 percent of your back pay will automatically be deducted to pay your SSD lawyer, not to exceed $6,000.

If your SSD application is denied, you are granted 60 days from the date you receive the notice to appeal. With as many as 70 percent of claims being denied when they are first processed, do not be alarmed if you are in this group. If you have not already done so, now is the time to hire a well-versed SSD attorney who can help ensure your appeal is filed on time and make it as successful as possible. No matter the reason for your SSD application denial, an attorney could help you win your case in the appeals process.

The first step of the appeal process is a request for reconsideration. In this step, your application will be sent back to the SSA for a second review to see if you should be approved. This process can take three to five months to complete, and fewer than 15 percent of appeals will be approved from a request for reconsideration.

When to Apply for SSD Benefits

Just as important as how to apply for Social Security Disability is when. Since it will be a minimum of a few months after you submit your application before you receive your benefits, applying as soon as you can is wise.

When you hire an SDD lawyer, they can help you complete your application and help avoid any delays in its processing by ensuring you provide all the required information and documentation the first time.

Get Help with Applying for Social Security Disability

If you are wondering how to apply for Social Security Disability or have questions about making your SSD claim successful, reach out to an experienced attorney who focuses on Social Security Disability. Your attorney can review your case to determine if you have a valid disability claim, help you gather information and documentation, and help you file your application. If your claim is denied, your attorney will help you file an appeal and do everything they can to make sure your claim is a success. Retaining legal assistance during this process can give you peace of mind and provide an outlet for your questions and frustrations.

To learn more about how to apply for Social Security Disability, schedule a consultation today using our convenient online contact form.

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