One of the top reasons applicants are denied Social Security Disability benefits is because the claimant failed to complete his or her application! People frequently ask me, “How can a person fail to complete the application?”
If I had to venture a guess, I would say that many claimants fail to complete the application because of all the work that is required to file a claim. The application will ask for details about your work history and medical treatment. That might not sound like much if you’ve held the same job for 20 years, or you’ve only ever seen one doctor, but for many claimants tracking down all of this information and then providing it to the Social Security Administration is a laborious and time-consuming process. For those who are struggling with a disabling medical condition, it can be overwhelming.
How to Apply for Social Security Disability
Perhaps it would be easier to understand if I were to detail the specific information that is required to file a disability claim with the Social Security Administration. In this article, I will cover the different ways that you can apply for Social Security Disability (SSD), the information required to complete the application, and when you should apply for SSD benefits.
There are three ways that you can apply for disability benefits: on the internet (online), in person (if your local office has reopened for in-person appointments), or on the telephone. When you file a claim in person or by telephone, a Social Security representative will interview you and complete the application for disability benefits and the Adult Disability Report.
Even if you choose to apply in person or on the telephone, you can reduce your interview time by as much as 50% by starting the process online. You can complete both the application for benefits and the Adult Disability Report online by going to the Social Security Administration’s website. You still need to keep your scheduled appointment with your local field office so a Social Security representative can review your information, but the process will be much quicker.
However, you are not required to submit anything online. When you schedule an appointment, the SSA will send you a Disability Starter Kit, which includes a Medical and Job Worksheet (“Worksheet”) and a Checklist – Adult Disability Interview (“Checklist”) to help you prepare for your disability claims interview. The Disability Starter Kit also is available online on the SSA website.
For your information and convenience, I will also list the information you will need to gather below.
How to Apply Online
You can apply for Social Security Disability online by visiting the Social Security Administration’s website. There are four (4) steps to apply online:
- Review the Adult Disability Checklist
- Fill out the Disability Benefit Application
- Fill out the Adult Disability Report
- Fill out the Authorization to Disclose Information Form and mail or hand deliver it to your local Social Security Administration office
How to Apply On the Phone
If you prefer to apply by phone then the first thing you should do is call Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call Social Security’s toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. The disability claims interview typically lasts from one to three hours, depending on how well prepared you are for the interview.
How to Apply In Person
If you want to apply in person (and your local office is accepting in-person applications), then you should also call the SSA’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your local Social Security office. In the greater Pensacola area, you may call the Pensacola office directly at 1-877-505-4550. Again, the disability claims interview typically lasts from one to three hours, depending on how well prepared you are for the interview.
What Completes The Application?
To complete your application for disability benefits, you must complete (1) a Social Security Benefit Application, (2) an Adult Disability Report, and (3) an Authorization to Disclose Medical Records to the Social Security Administration.
The authorization is a one-page medical release that gives Social Security permission to request your medical records from your doctors. The Social Security Benefit Application is your claim for benefits. It does not take very long to make a claim.
The real time-consuming part of a disability application is the Adult Disability Report, which collects detailed information about your personal history, work history, medical history, and current treatment for your disabling conditions.
Use the following Checklist to prepare for your application, whether it be online, in-person, or on the telephone:
- Medical records already in your possession. (You do not need to go out and gather all of your medical records. You only need to gather what you already have. Social Security will help you obtain the rest of your medical records.).
- Workers’ compensation information, including the settlement agreement, payout ledger (distribution), date of injury, claim number, and proof of other disability awarded payment amounts.
- Names and dates of birth of your minor children (under 19 years old) and your spouse.
- Dates of marriages and divorces.
- Checking or savings account number,including the bank’s 9-digit routing number, if you want Direct Deposit for your benefit checks.
- Name, address, and phone number of a person Social Security can contact if it is unable to get in touch with you.
- If Form SSA-827 (Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration) was mailed to you by Social Security, complete the form (sign and date with witness signature) and return it as directed.
- As stated above, if you are unable to file for benefits online, complete the “Medical and Job Worksheet – Adult” and take it to your interview.
Take the Checklist items and information to your appointment or have them with you if your appointment is by telephone. You should keep your appointment even if you do not have all of the information. Social Security will help you obtain any missing information.
The Medical and Job Worksheet
You should also complete the Medical and Job Worksheet to prepare for your in-person or telephone appointment, or when filing online. This Worksheet is not an application for Social Security disability benefits. It is meant to help you fill out the application for benefits.
The Worksheet requires you to list the following information:
- Medical Conditions: You should list all of the physical or mental conditions (including emotional or learning problems) that limit your ability to work. If you have cancer or any other condition that is measured in stages, you should include the stage and type.
- If you are not working, list the date you stopped working.
- Your height without shoes in feet and inches.
- Weight without shoes in pounds.
- Medical Sources: You should list any doctors, hospitals, clinics, therapists, or emergency rooms you have visited because of your conditions. For each medical provider, you should list the name of the provider, address, phone number (with area code), the date you were first seen (or admission date), and the date you were last seen (or discharge date).
- Medicines: You should list any medicines you take, why you take them (for which medical condition), and the prescribing doctor’s name.
- Medical Tests: List any medical tests you have had or are going to have in the future. For each test, you should also provide the type of test, the name of the doctor who ordered the test, and the date(s) of the test.
- Job History: List the jobs (up to the most recent 5) that you had in the 15 years before you stopped working. For each job, you should list the job title, type of business, dates worked, number of days worked per week, hours worked per day, and rate of pay.
Armed with the above documents and information, you are well-prepared to file your claim form for disability. It is strongly recommended that you have someone such as an attorney experienced in handling disability claims go through your application with you.
When Should I Apply for Social Security Disability?
You should apply for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI and SSI) as soon as you are eligible. If you have a disability and are either (1) unable to work or (2) no longer able to work full time, you should file an application for disability with the Social Security Administration.
You are eligible to file an application for social security disability or SSI either (a) the day after you stop working, or (b) the day after your earnings fall below $1,350.00 per month. If you are disabled and fall within one of the two options above, you should contact your local social security office and begin the application process.
Please note that neither of the two options above allows for you to apply while working full-time. Many prospective clients call me and state they want to apply for disability while working full time so they can have the disability benefits in place before they quit their job. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to apply for disability in this order.
If you are working full time while applying for disability, you will be immediately denied under step one of the five-step sequential disability evaluation process. For this reason, you must wait until you stop working, or until your income drops below $1,350 per month.
Request a Free Consultation
Nick Ortiz is a Board Certified Social Security Disability Attorney who offers a free case evaluation. Call our office today at (888) 321-8131 to schedule your free consultation.