How to Apply for SSDI or SSI Benefits

Each and every year millions of individuals suffer from a long-term or permanent disability. The resulting inability to work can wreak financial havoc on an individual and their family, causing significant stress and hardship. This lack of income is often compounded by disability-related medical bills, leaving some people wondering if there will ever be a light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits can help offset some of the financial pressure that can be caused by a disabling condition. The problem is, many people don't have any idea where to go to apply for disability benefits or how to navigate the complicated Social Security Disability application process. If you want to receive the Social Security Disability benefits that you so desperately need, understanding the application process is a must. If you or someone you know has suffered a disability and is in need of disability benefits to make ends meet, the following information can help you understand how to apply for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Preparing Your Information

Before you apply for Social Security Disability benefits you should gather the information that will be requested by the SSA during the disability application process. Make sure you have your social security number and the social security numbers of your spouse and children. You will also need the past year's W-2 information and, if you were in the military, the discharge papers for each of your periods of active duty.

When filing an application for Social Security Disability benefits, you will also need to fill out the Social Security Disability report form. This report will ask you for information such as your name, address, phone number, the contact information for your treating physicians, dates of treatments, names of any medications that you may be taking and the names of the doctors who prescribed these medications. This form will also ask for details pertaining to the type of work you have performed and what your last five jobs were. If you have any workers' compensation or insurance claims filed, you will also need to provide the SSA with information about those claims on this report.

You should also try to get copies of your medical records before you submit your Social Security Disability application. While the SSA may obtain medical records on your behalf, having the medical records ready with your application can help expedite your claim and may help you be approved for disability benefits more quickly.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Once you have gathered the necessary information, you should contact the SSA to complete a disability application. The actual application can be filled out either at the Social Security office, over the phone or online. When submitting your application for Social Security Disability benefits, you will need to complete the Social Security Adult Disability Report. This report contains eleven separate sections and asks for information about your medical conditions, any work activity you may be performing, your education and training, medical treatments you have undergone, medications you are taking and other disability-related information.

Once the SSA receives your application for Social Security Disability benefits and all of the documentation required, they will begin to review your claim. You may, at this point, be asked to go for a consultative exam. This exam is paid for by the SSA. The purpose of the exam is to evaluate the extent of your disability and whether or not your condition meets the Social Security Disability guidelines. It is very important that you show up for your exam. Not undergoing the required consultative exam may result in a denial of your Social Security Disability benefits. While the findings of the consultative exam do play a part in the decision the SSA makes in regards to your disability application, statements from your treating physicians and objective medical evidence are given more weight in the determination process.

Completing the Application Process

It will take the SSA approximately three to four months to process your claim for disability benefits. If your claim is approved, you will receive a letter stating how much your monthly benefits will be and how much back pay, if any, you are entitled to. If your Social Security Disability application is not approved, you have 60 days from the date you receive the notice to appeal the SSA's decision to deny your benefits. Approximately 70 percent of the applications received by the SSA are denied each year so it is not uncommon for applicants to have to file an appeal in order to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

If you need to file an appeal or an initial claim, you should consider retaining the services of a qualified disability attorney. Your chances of successfully filing a disability claim are significantly increased with proper legal representation.