How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?

As I explain to people there are four ways to apply for disability benefits. I’ll outline each below, and describe what I call the “pros and cons” of each method.

1. First, you can contact an attorney to help you through the entire process.

Despite what you may hear “on the street”, you do not need to be denied multiple times before you hire an attorney. In fact, an attorney like me may be willing to assist you from the very beginning of your claim by helping you apply for your benefits.

Other people say you do not really need an attorney to file for benefits. They are correct. I would never tell you that you must hire an attorney to file. However, there are some advantages to hiring an attorney from the very beginning:

  1. An attorney can assist you in developing a winning “theory” of the case. This is the legal argument that you will use to persuade the individual deciding your claim that you meet one or more of the eligibility requirements for disability.
  2. An attorney can help make sure the most important issues are highlighted and developed in your claim from the very beginning.
  3. An attorney can remind you of important paperwork that must be submitted, and remind you of medical examination appointments you may need to attend.
  4. You will have someone there to answer questions you may have about each stage of your claim, and why Social Security may be doing what it is doing.
  5. An attorney can assist you in obtaining and developing the critical medical evidence and records necessary to win your claim.
  6. An attorney can assist you in supplying Social Security with all of the evidence they require to conclude the claim.
  7. An attorney can help you quickly and efficiently navigate the appeal process.

The only “con” to hiring an attorney from the very beginning is that you would of course have to pay an attorney’s fee on any “back benefits” you are awarded. Keep in mind, however, that you do not have to pay any attorney’s fee if you do not win, and if you win early in the claim your fee may be much smaller than if you win later in the appeal process (as there will be a larger back due benefit from which the fees are paid if the claim is open for a long time).

2. Second, you can apply over the phone.

You can call Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY, 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule a telephone interview. The phone interview will not happen right away. In fact, because the phone interview may take as long as a few hours, the interview may not be scheduled until a few weeks after this first contact.

Pros:

  • Many feel the convenience of having a Social Security representative guide you through the process is welcome. The claimant does not have to worry about what to write in response to a particular question on a form.
  • Even though the appointment may not be until a few weeks after the claimant first contacted Social Security, SSA will consider the application filed as of the date the claimant first called Social Security. This is referred to as the “protected filing date”.
  • The application should be completed without further delay.

Cons:

  • Processing on the application will not begin until after the scheduled telephone conference is concluded.

3. You can go in person to your local Social Security office to apply.

Our local office is located at
411 W. Garden Street, Pensacola, FL 32502. The telephone for our local office is: (850) 434-5488.

Here is a map of the local location:

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Pros:

  • As above, many feel the convenience of having a Social Security representative guide you through the process is welcome. The claimant does not have to worry about what to write in response to a particular question on a form.
  • The application should be completed without further delay.

Cons:

  • The local office can be a little busy and chaotic. The waiting room can be a little overwhelming for some people.
  • You may have to wait awhile until your appointment. In other words, it may not start right on time.

4. If you are an adult, you can apply for disability benefits online.

If you are under age 18 or your are applying for disability benefits for a child, you can fill out some of the necessary information online, but you must contact Social Security to complete the application process.

To find out how to apply, please choose the type of benefits you wish to apply for:

Pros:

  • You can fill out the information at your convenience.
  • You can even pause the application and return to it at a later date.

Cons:

  • There is no one to push you to complete the application.
  • Many begin the process and do not see it to completion.
  • You need to have internet access.

Whichever process you take is a personal decision. Just to note: if it were me, I’d choose the first option! Call me at 850-912-9919, or fill out the form, for a FREE consultation.

Posted in: Social Security Disability and SSI, Top 10 SSA FAQ