When Should I Apply for Social Security Disability?


No one plans to sustain a serious injury, be involved in an accident, receive a terminal diagnosis, or come down with a long-term illness. When faced with one of these situations, it can throw your life into a tailspin.

You may be dealing with pain and the inability to care for yourself. You may not be able to do things you once did easily. You may also be unable to go to work for an extended period of time, if ever again, causing immense financial strain on you and your family.

Where can you turn for help? Depending on your situation, you might be able to apply for Social Security Disability (SSD). With the help of a well-versed Social Security Disability attorney, you could win your claim and receive monthly payments to help you comfortably live your life even if you cannot return to work.

Your attorney can help you determine whether you meet the requirements to apply, such as having enough work credits and not being engaged in any gainful work activities. They can also help you complete your application and gather the required information and documentation to prove your SSD claim. If your initial claim is denied, they can also help you file an appeal.

See our Social Security Disability Resource Guide for even more information.

When Should You Apply for Social Security Disability?

You should consult a disability lawyer as soon as you become disabled. In most cases, it will take months for your application to be processed and evaluated. If your claim is denied and you need to appeal, that could take a year or more before you get a decision. If you are like most Americans, you cannot afford to live without a steady income for an extended period of time. Filing an accurate and complete initial application is extremely important and may shorten the time it takes to receive disability benefits.

Talk to Your Doctor

Before you apply, however, it is a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor. Your doctor can provide you with the medical documentation you will need to prove your disability. You can request a written statement explaining your medical condition and your doctor’s opinion on how this presents a disability for you. A disability attorney will work to obtain a medical source statement from your medical provider that describes your functional limitations.

How Do You Qualify for Social Security Disability?

In order to qualify for SSD, you must meet specific basic requirements. If you do not meet these requirements, your claim will be denied. You should discuss these requirements with an experienced SSD attorney to determine if you qualify to apply. You must:

Have accumulated enough social security work credits

When you earn a wage and pay social security taxes, you accumulate work credits or points. In 2019, you had to earn $1,360 to gain one work credit. In general, workers with less than 40 credits will not qualify for SSD. You can receive as many as four work credits each year. Sometimes age can restrict your eligibility as well. SSD applicants who are more than 31 years of age must have 40 work credits that were earned in the last 15 years. However, if you are younger, you could still qualify.

Not be engaged in any ‘Substantial Gainful Activity’ (SGA)

The next step to qualify for SSD requires you not to earn an income. This requirement ensures that claimants genuinely are disabled and not able to be gainfully employed. In 2020, if you earn less than $1,260 per month from work or $2,110, if you are blind, you can still be eligible to receive SSD benefits. Keep in mind that if you earn a regular paycheck, you are, by definition, not too disabled to work and will not qualify to receive SSD.

Meet the definition of disabled

To apply for Social Security Disability, you must also meet the government’s definition of disability. You must be diagnosed with a long-term medical condition that prevents you from working. This could be from an accident, an illness, or any other reason. You must not be able to participate in any gainful work due to a physical or mental impairment that is medically proven. Your disability must be expected to last for at least 12 months or even be expected to result in death. It must also significantly limit your ability to perform basic activities essential to work, such as walking, sitting, standing, or retaining and remembering information.

Be unable to perform any job for which you are qualified

Another condition to apply for Social Security Disability is that you are unable to do the job you were performing when you became disabled or any other job for which you are qualified. In reviewing your application, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at all your work skills to determine whether there is any work you can do, even with your medical condition. Generally, younger applicants have a harder time getting their claim approved, as the SSA is more likely to determine that you have transferable skills to work at some type of job.

The SSA Listing of Impairments

The Listing of Impairments is the SSA’s inventory of medical conditions or health problems that are typically proven severe enough to allow you to qualify for SSD benefits. Part A lists adult conditions, and Part B lists children’s conditions. The list is grouped by the following:

  • The Musculoskeletal System
  • Special Senses and Speech
  • Respiratory Disorders
  • The Cardiovascular System
  • The Digestive System
  • Genitourinary Disorders
  • Hematological Disorders
  • Skin Disorders
  • Endocrine Disorders
  • Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Mental Disorders
  • Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
  • Immune System Disorders

It’s important to remember that this list of impairments is simply one step in the disability evaluation process. It is a list that the SSA publishes to show applicants what medical issues might allow you to be eligible for benefits. The SSA also lists certain symptoms that you must have in order to qualify for SSD benefits based on each condition.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

If you are ready to apply for SSD, you have several options. Be aware that no matter which option you choose, you could have more success when you hire a Social Security Disability lawyer to help you complete the application. Attorneys who specialize in SSD cases are familiar with how extensive your answers on the application need to be and the required documentation. Your options to apply for Social Security Disability include:

  • Online through the SSA website
  • Via 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

If you apply on the phone or in person, be prepared to have your SSD interview at the same time. During this interview, an SSA representative will ask for information that you can obtain from your doctor about your medical condition. If your doctor did not give you this information, you could sign release forms for your doctor’s office to release the information directly to the SSA.

When completing your SSD application, it is best to answer every question and never leave an answer blank. Avoid using simple yes or no answers and be prepared to explain more. Be concise yet still thorough.

Necessary Information and Documentation

The more information and documentation you can have when you apply, the better. To determine your eligibility and approve you for SSD benefits, the SSA needs a lot of information from you. Some of it you will need to prove with the appropriate documentation. Be prepared to provide information such as:

  • Your work history
  • Your current earnings
  • Your household income and household assets
  • Your bank or financial institution
  • Your current and past employers
  • As many as five jobs you’ve had in the past 15 years
  • Other benefits you may be receiving
  • Your citizenship status
  • Discharge from the military (if applicable)
  • Medical records

Even if you do not have all the necessary information and documentation to apply, you can still hire an SSD lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to help you obtain what you need to apply for Social Security Disability.

Let a Seasoned Attorney Help You Apply for Social Security Disability

Applying for SSD can be a daunting task. You may not be sure if you qualify. You may not be aware of all the documentation and information required on the application or where to find it. For these reasons, many SSD claimants turn to our office for help filing and pursuing their claims. With your assistance, we will gather documents, prepare the application, andsubmit it to the SSA. We answer your questions along the way and do everything we can to make your SSD case a success.

If you believe you might qualify for SSD, now is the time to schedule your legal consultation. Call Joyce & Bary Law or fill out the form below to get started!

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