Applying for Social Security Disability: 9 Must-Know Basics

Applying for Social Security Disability

When you start applying for Social Security disability, be prepared for a complicated, confusing process if you don’t take certain things into consideration before sending in your disability benefits request. There are numerous aspects of applying for Social Security disability that everyone needs to know, such as if you can still work while receiving Social Security Disability and the basics of how attorneys can advocate for their clients. Understanding the underlying, fundamental elements of the Social Security disability application and review process can help to inform your expectations. While this is not a completely comprehensive list, it can provide a strong starting-off point for those thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits.



1. Know the Differences Between Social Security Administration’s Two Disability Benefit Programs

There are two main Social Security disability benefits programs, and the SSA examines each applicants’ eligibility for both. There is the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The former is an entitlement-based disability program that allows applicants to qualify if they are unable to work due to disability and they’ve worked 5 out of the last 10 years. There are strict qualifications to be part of the SSDI program, but beneficiaries may be able to remain earning income while in the program if earnings remain below the “Substantial Gainful Activity” per month. The SSI program is a poverty-based disability program and the benefits differ if applicants are single or married. Both programs—Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—have identical medical qualifications.

2. What are the Medical Qualifications?

There are numerous qualifications those applying for Social Security disability must meet to receive medical benefits. As there is no partial disability available through the SSA and the agency only considers applicants’ ability to work, all applicants under the age of 50 must be able to provide information that proves they are unable to perform “any full-time work on a continuous basis or that meets a medical listing.” Applicants also must have medical documentation or evidence, be already out of work and making only a certain amount of money every month or anticipate being out of work for at least one year.

3. When Can You Start Applying for Social Security Disability?

Perhaps one of the most common questions about applying for Social Security disability benefits is when to start your claim. The SSA encourages people to begin applying for Social Security disability benefits as soon as they become disabled to help reduce their claim review wait time.

4. How Does the Social Security Administration Classify ‘Disabled’?

While often seen as the trickiest and most complicated question, how the SSA determines if someone is disabled is actually fairly straightforward. According to the SSA, a person has a “disability” if he or she is unable to do the work he or she did before, if the SSA rules the person cannot adjust to other work due to their medical impairment and if the condition continues or is expected to continue for at least one year or result in death.

5. Are There Special Situations?

Yes, such as if a person is blind, was wounded in battle or is an injured workers’ widow or widower, according to the SSA.

6. Does the SSA Consider All Impairments?

The SSA requires all medical information about each of the applicant’s medical conditions in order for the person to receive Social Security disability benefits, including mental disorders. The SSA considers both mental and physical impairments.

7. Are Examinations by SSA Providers Necessary?

Not usually, but all medical information from providers must be provided. Physicians also cannot give their own opinions to the SSA.

8. Do You Need an Attorney?

Having an experienced advocate or attorney can help assist with the process and reduce stress. In fact, attorneys may boost an applicant’s chances of receiving Social Security benefits and a positive ruling by helping applicants file the right way. Attorneys only get paid if you’re awarded Social Security disability benefits and it’s a one-time, regulated fee deducted from accrued back pay.

9. How Long Will the Process Take?

The SSA says it usually takes between three and five months for a decision to be ruled. However, additional factors, such as the time it takes to receive medical records, can lengthen the determination process.

If you are ready to seek out the help of a disability advocate or attorney before applying for Social Security disability, we can help. Our free benefits evaluation has help people across the nation connect with experienced legal representation in their area. To find out if you may pre-qualify, click on the button below.

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