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 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.

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:

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
If you apply for disability in Utah
Getting a Disability Lawyer in Utah

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?

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.