Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

What Happens When You File an SSI or Social Security Disability Application?

Generally, you file a Social Security application or SSI application with a claims representative either in person at your local Social Security office or through a telephone interview. Regardless of the format chosen, the claims representative will ask questions about your:

A) Disabling conditions
B) Medical treatment
C) Work history

Medical History Information

You should be able to provide the claims representative with your medical treatment sources and make sure the information is complete and detailed. Keep in mind that this information will be used by a disability examiner to request your medical evidence and that if you fail to include a particular treatment source, or provide incompete information, it could significantly delay your case, or, worse, result in the examiner being unable to gather the evidence needed to approve your claim.

In accordance with this, the information you provide regarding your medical treatment history should include the names of facilities (hospitals, clinics, etc), the names of your physicians, the addresses for your treatment sources, their phone numbers, and the dates, or date ranges, during which you received treatment.

Note: The names of treating physicians are doubly important if at some point, your disability representative or disability attorney will be attempting to obtain a medical source statement on your behalf. This usually occurs at the level of a disability hearing before an administrative law judge.

Additionally, you should have a list of your current medications, which medical professional prescribed them, and any side effects you are experiencing.

Many individuals fail to disclose side effects that occur as a result of prescribed medication; however, this is important to include since medication effects can have a profound influence on an individual's ability to persist at work tasks (for example, some pain meds and muscle relaxants can significantly impair concentration and alertness). Lastly, you need to provide a list of the medical tests you have had along with who referred you for the test and where it was done.

Work History Information

When you file a Social Security disability application or SSI application, you should also be able to give the claims representative information about the various kinds of work you performed prior to becoming disabled. Social Security considers all work activity you performed in the fifteen years prior to filing for disability. This fifteen year period is known as the relevant period.

Note: A CR, or claims representative, is not to be confused with a disability representative who provides legal representation. The CR, by contrast, is a social security field office employee who takes both disability and retirement claims.

However, a job can only be relevant to your disability determination if you performed the job three months or more, had time to learn the job, and your earnings were at least what is considered substantial gainful activity (SGA).

To be considered SGA, you simply needed to have made a certain amount or more (the social security earnings limit) each month for the time that you held the job. Disability examiners will use your relevant work history to make their disability determination, meaning that they will compare what you did in your past jobs to the residual functional capacity that you currently possess to determine if you have the ability to go back to one of those jobs.

The Processing of your Disability Claim

The Social Security definition of disability mandates that you must have a medically determinable mental or physical impairment and that the impairment has prevented you from performing work activity that earned SGA-level income for the past twelve months, or can be expected to prevent SGA for twelve months.

After each claim is initiated and a disability interview has been conducted, claims representatives at social security offices gather the medical and work information for your disability claim and then send the claim to a state disability agency (DDS, or disability determination services) for a medical determination.

Once your disability file is received at the state disability agency, or DDS, it is assigned to a disability examiner, who then sends for your medical records. Ordinarily, the wait for your medical records will constitute the bulk of the time that it takes to process your case. In some instances, your records will be gathered within a couple of weeks. Very often, however, it can take months if the medical provider is very slow in responding to the medical record requests.

Once the medical records have been received, the disability examiner will review them to look for signs of physical and mental functional limitations that would A) prevent the individual from going back to one of their past jobs and B) prevent the individual from doing some type of other work.

In many cases, the claimant will not have been treated for one of the conditions that has been listed on the disability application, or will not have received medical treatment recently (within the last 90 days). In such cases, it may be necessary for the disability examiner to schedule one or more consultative examinations, if needed.

Social Security uses consultative examinations to provide clarification of the information found in your medical treatment notes, or to get a current status on your medical condition if you have not had medical treatment in the past ninety days. Disability examiners must have current medical treatment information to make their disability decision.

Once the disability examiner has enough medical information from your treating medical sources and/or consultative examination reports, they will make their medical determination. They consider the limitations imposed upon you by your disabling condition.

Means of Approving your Disability Claim

If your limitations are so severe that they meet or equal the disability criteria of an impairment listing, you may be approved for disability.

If this is not the case, however, there is still the possibility of being approved via a medical vocational allowance, a type of approval that is far more common than being approved on the basis of a listing.

In this type of determination, the examiner evaluates your ability to perform any of your past work. If they determine that you are unable to do your past work, they must then consider your ability to perform other types of work. If you are not able to do past work, and the disability examiner determines that you are unable to do other work, you may be approved for disability benefits.

Medical vocational allowance decisions rely heavily on the information provided by the claimant and, once again, highlight the importance of supplying detailed and accurate information. This is because the disability examiner will identify the claimant's past jobs according the description of the job made by the claimant.

Proper identification of jobs (delivery truck driver versus tractor-trailer-truck drive, for example), of course, can easily make the difference between being approved for benefits, or being denied on the basis of the ability to return to past work, or using one's education and skills to perform other work.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

How to apply for disability and where to apply
Filing an Application for Disability Benefits under SSD or SSI - Step by Step
Tips on how to file for disability
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
What happens after I file my disability claim with Social Security?
What happens after a Social Security Disability or SSI Claim has been taken and is Pending
If you get denied on a disability application do you have to file a new application?
How the Decision on a Disability Application or Appeal Under SSDI or SSI is Made
Check Amount on Social Security Disability Award Letter

Related pages:

Does social security contact your former work employers when you file for disability?
Can You File For Disability While Receiving Unemployment?
When should you File for Disability benefits with the social security administration?
Do You Have To Be Out Of Work For A Long Time Before You Can File For Disability?
Filing for Disability Online or over the phone
Who Do I Contact To File For Disability Benefits from the Social Security Administration?
How long does it take to hear an answer after filing for disability?
You can file for disability for a mental disorder or problem if it interferes with SGA
If You File For Social Security Disability How Far Back Will They Look At Your Medical Records?
What if you Move out of State after you apply for Social Security Disability or SSI?
When should you apply for Social Security Disability?
What Happens When You File an SSI or Social Security Disability Application?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

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

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
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?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria