How do you Apply for SSI?

There are three separate means by which an individual may apply for SSI.

1. Calling the Teleclaim center.

2. Visiting the social security administration website and filing the claim online. Note: The benefit of receiving a protected filing date only pertains to

For instance, as was mentioned, it is not possible to file for SSI online. This presents a significant complication since many disability claims are either filed solely under the SSI disability program, or are filed concurrently in both programs (see Concurrent Disability claims).

Additionally, there is the simple fact that attempting to
apply for SSI or SSDI (Social Security Disability insurance) is a process best served when the claimant has the ability to ask questions and receive answers from a Social Security claims representative (claims reps, or CRs, are the individuals who take disability and retirement claims in social security field offices).

Using the online process does not allow for this and using the toll free 1-800 line often results in the claimant receiving incorrect or outdated information (receiving bad information from the teleclaim center has been a widespread complaint for many years).

Applying for SSI through a social security field office can be initiated by calling the office and requesting that an appointment be made for a disability application interview. The interview can be conducted in person and this is typically the preferred option. However, for individuals who have transportation issues or mobility issues as a result of their condition, the disability interview can be conducted over the phone.

For those who are wondering what makes a the phone interview with a social security field office different from a phone interview with the teleclaims center, the simple answer is that the personnel at a field office actually work on claims whereas the teleclaims center is staffed by individuals who simply take the information from a claimant and then forward the information to a field office.

This nearly ensures that the teleclaims staffers will have very little direct experience when it comes to the processing of a disability claim, and this probably accounts for why so many claimants in recent years have been given incorrect or misleading information from the teleclaim center.

If an SSI application is handled by a local social security field office, a claimant should do the following in advance of the disability interview appointment to ensure that the disability application is filed with the information that is needed to process an accurate decision:

1. Produce a written work history for the fifteen year period prior to the claimant's onset of disability. This fifteen year period is known as the relevant period and all jobs that have been worked during this time frame may potentially be considered as jobs to which the claimant might be considered capable of returning, assuming that their mental or physical condition does not impose functional limitations that rule this out.

It will be especially important for the claimant to include accurate job titles and accurate and detailed descriptions of duties performed on each job. This is important because the majority of SSDI and SSI claims are decided by comparing the demands and work skills of a claimant's past jobs to their current physical or mental condition and determining A) whether or not they possess the ability to go back to a past job and B) whether or not they possess the ability to do some type of other work based on the skills they have developed over the course of their work history.

If a claimant does not compile their work history in advance of the disability application interview, this same information will be requested at the time of the interview. However, doing it in advance will allow a claimant to give more thought and consideration to supplying their work history information--which can be helpful considering that the social security administration requests information for the prior 15 years.

Compiling the work history in advance may also result in more accurate information for the same reasons. And this is particularly important since there are instances in which jobs are misidentified, the result being that the disability claim is denied on the basis of the claimant being able to return to a past job, or is denied on the basis of the claimant having specific job skills that transfer to other types of employment--which may not be the case if one or more jobs are improperly identified. It should go without saying that supplying accurate and detailed information regarding the relevant work history is of utmost important.

2. Produce a history of medical treatment received from all medical treatment providers, dating back to at least the claimant's onset of disability, but preferably to the time of initial diagnosis as well. Disability decisions for SSDI and SSI claims are both medical and vocational in nature, meaning that whether or not a claimant is approved or denied will depend on A) what the claimant's medical records have to say about their condition and B) what the claimant's work history indicates about the requirements of their past work, as well as the work skills they may possess.

Continued at: How to File for SSI, Part II

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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