What is the Process to be Approved for SSD or SSI Disability Benefits?

The Social Security Disability process is a multi-level one. It starts with the claimant contacting the social security administration. This can take the form of the claimant initiating their disability claim through the SSA website, calling the SSA toll free line, or by contacting their local social security office.

The recommended method is really to contact your nearest social security office. Why? Because the staffers at the toll free line are somewhat famous for dispensing incorrect information and the online process developed by the social security administration has flaws, such as the fact that while a bonafide Social Security Disability claim can be started online, an SSI claim cannot.

The website may give the appearance that an SSI claim is being filed, but in actuality the online process does not offer protective filing dates for SSI claims. And this is important because it gives the claimant a starting point for the payment of back pay. Note: recent information indicates that SSA is making it possible to file a bonafide SSI claim online.

Additionally, contacting the local social security office makes a lot of sense since A) many claimants will have questions that the teleclaims center and the website will not be able to answer and B) in most cases when a claim is started via the teleclaims center or the website, the social security office will still need to contact the claimant to resolve an issue or gather information.

And, after all, since the case will be assigned to a CR (claims representative) at the social security office, it makes perfect sense to speak with this individual from the very beginning.

Contacting the social security administration is the first step. What happens next is that social security will set up an appointment time for a disability application interview.

At this interview, the claimant will be asked to provide identification information (such as a birth certificate) and information regarding workman's compensation and prior military service (if these things are applicable). However, these are simply non-medical requirement issues. The most important information that the claimant will need to provide at the disability application interview will be:

1) Information regarding the claimant's work history.

2) Information regarding the claimant's medical treatment history.

With regard to the claimant's work history, the claimant will not need to provide a listing of every job they have ever done, but, instead, will need to provde a listing of every job they have done in the last 15 years prior to becoming disabled. This list will only include jobs that the claimant performed long enough to learn (therefore, any job that the claimant left before completing the training period would not need to be included.

With regard to the medical treatment history, the claimant should provide a list of all their medical treatment sources. This would include all their doctors and hospitals. It should also include where the facility is located, what type of treatment was provided there, what was diagnosed, and when the claimant was last seen at a particular hospital or doctor's office.

Is it important for the claimant to list all older and current medical treatment sources? Yes, and this is because when the social security administration evaluates medical evidence, they are looking to determine two different things:

A) Is the claimant currently disabled? Meaning in the here and now. Only current medical records can establish this.

B) How far back does the disability go? Only older medical records can establish the disability onset date.

And this, of course, underscores the importance of providing Social Security with all known treatment sources since this will make it more likely for the earliest possible onset date to be established (which impacts how much back pay may be owed), as well as establishing whether or not an individual is presently disabled.

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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