How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

What Happens During A Social Security Disability or SSI Application Interview?

Social Security allows applicants to file SSDI and SSI applications by phone, online, or using their local Social Security office. Regarding these options, the teleclaims center is generally not advised due to its long history of providing inaccurate information.

Secondly, attempting to file for disability online can be disadvantageous for one basic reason: The online process does not allow a claimant to speak directly with a Claims Representative, or CR--which may minimize confusion and mistakes made during the application or appeal process.

For the purposes of this question, we are addressing what happens during a phone or in-person disability interview that is conducted through a local Social Security office (related: What to bring to a disability interview).

Note: If an individual chooses to file their disability claim in-person, they should bring in a picture ID. If they are unable to do so, they will have to go through an identification process which involves the Claims Representative asking five personal questions:
  • What is your your social security number?
  • Where you were born?
  • What is your current address?
  • What is your date of birth?
  • What are the the names of your parents?
These questions are asked so that the Social Security Claims Representative--the individual responsible for the intake portion of your claim before the claim is transferred to a disability examiner--may verify that they are speaking to the correct person.

In addition to a picture ID, you should bring your birth certificate with you (if you have it) and and you should be prepared to answer questions about the following topics:

1) Your medical conditions.

2) Your medical treatment sources (including the names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors and clinics and hospitals, as well as treatment dates).

3) Your medications (those currently being taken).

4) Any testing that you have had.

5) Your work history.

These topics relate directly to how the Social Security Administration makes approvals on disability claims. The first method of approving a claim is by evaluating an individual's medical evidence to determine if they have a condition that is included in the Social Security Disability of impairments. Cases that satisfy the requirements of a listing may be approved on this basis.

These listings provide the approval criteria for a number of medical conditions, both physical and mental. However, not every medical condition is listed. And even if a claimant has a condition that is included in the listings, the approval criteria is usually very specific and difficult to meet.

For this reason, SSA provides a second method of being approved, known as a medical vocational allowance, which is how most approvals are made. In this type of decision, the claimant's medical records are reviewed to determine what their current level of functional capability is (for instance, they may be capable of doing sedentary work, light work, or medium work). This results in a rating known as an RFC, or residual functional capacity, rating.

The RFC rating is compared to the demands of the claimant's past jobs so that Social Security can determine two things:

1) Does the individual have the ability to go back to one of their past jobs? If the answer is no, a second question must be asked.

2) Given the individual's a) age, b) current level of functioning (their RFC), c) their work experience (their skills and the physical and mental demands of their past jobs) and d) their education, do they have the ability to switch to some type of other work?

This page adds additional information on this process: How does Social Security Disability Decide if you can Work or Not?

If the answer to both these questions is no, the individual may qualify for disability benefits. This, of course, illustrates why it is important to provide detailed information regarding the medical treatment history and the work history.

Providing information about the Medical History and Work history

Regarding the medical treatment history, the person filing for disability should be sure to include all sources of treatment back to the time their disability began. They should also include every current source. This is because Social Security will need to determine whether or not the person is currently disabled and also what their date of onset is, which is critical for determining how much back pay they may be eligible to receive.

Full names and addresses of treatment sources, however, is also important so that the disability examiner who processes the case will not have any difficulty obtaining the needed medical records. In most cases, the single largest case processing delay has to do with obtaining medical records and in many cases this is related to incorrect or incomplete information provided at the time of application.

Regarding the work history, the person filing for disability should include their entire work history for the 15 year period prior to becoming disabled. This should include job titles and detailed descriptions of job duties. As previously stated, Social Security uses this information to evaluate your ability to perform any of your past work activity and the chance that you might be able to do other kinds of work considering your job skills.

When the claim involves SSI

If your disability claim involves SSI, you should also be able to provide information about your income and resources (resources are assets). SSI is a need based disability program consequently it is subject to income and resource limits. During your disability interview, the claims representative will expect you to answer questions about your bank accounts, vehicles, insurance policies, land, or any other resources that could be easily converted to cash. Meeting resource and income limits determines if you are eligible for this program.

Note: See What are the Assets that count for SSI Disability?

Form 3368

While you are in your disability interview, a claims representative uses the information you are providing to complete your disability report form SSA 3368. This form contains your medical source contact information along with your treatment dates, medication, and testing. The form also lists types of work you have done in the past fifteen years.

They will also have you sign a medical release form that gives Social Security permission to request your medical records.

Once they have completed all necessary forms, your disability claim file is transferred to a state disability agency (DDS, or disability determination services) for a medical disability decision.

It would not be farfetched to say that a disability claim could be won or lost based on the information a disability claimant provides during their disability interview. Therefore, it is important to be prepared to answer questions thoroughly during the disability interview, because it provides better information to the disability examiner who is making the medical disability determination.

Continued at: What to bring to a disability interview when you apply

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

What Happens During A Social Security Disability or SSI Interview?
Be ready for your Social Security Disability Interview
Filing for Disability- what to bring to a disability interview when you apply
Can I apply for benefits with bipolar and no long term medical history?
How does age affect a Social Security Disability or SSI case?
Applying for disability with a cervical spine discectomy and fusion
Colorado Disability Back Pay
Can I get temporary disability in Colorado?
How difficult is it to get disability benefits in Colorado?

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.