Social Security Disability Resource Center
How to Claim Disability Benefits through Social Security
If you have a medical disability that is so severe that it prevents you from performing normal daily activities including substantial work activity, you may qualify for disability benefits.
In order to determine if you are eligible for benefits under SSD or SSI (the program you file under will be determined at the time of application), you first must contact Social Security to initiate a claim for disability. You can do this online, or by contacting a local social security office and arranging for either an in-person disability application interview, or by arranging to have a telephone interview conducted by a field office claims representative.
While the online process may seem simpler, in actuality it saves no processing time on a case. Additionally, the online process does not allow claimants to ask important questions about filing their claim.
And, finally, the online process does not allow an SSI claim to be taken with a protected filing date, which is very important when one considers that SSI disability back pay is determined from the date of the SSI application.
Regarding the two disability programs operated by the Social Security Administration--Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability--some disability applicants will meet the eligibility requirements of both SSI and SSDI while others will be eligible for one and not the other. Your eligibility for the individual disability programs will be determined when you file your disability application.
Qualifications and Requirements for Disability Benefits
What are some of the qualifications or requirements used by Social Security to determine if you are able to get on disability?
1. Both the Social Security and SSI disability programs are based upon your inability to perform substantial gainful work activity, or SGA, for twelve continuous months; or the expectation that you will not be able to work for at least twelve continuous months because of your medical disability; or the expectation that your medical disability is expected to end in death.
2. Both Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income disability claims are sent to a state disability agency for a medical determination. The agency is DDS, or disability determination services.
At DDS, disability examiners use medical records obtained from the medical treatment sources you provide during your initial disability application interview, reports of consultative examinations (assuming you are scheduled for one), and other information gathered from work history report forms and activities of daily living questionnaires to make their disability determinations.
3. Disability examiners also use a disability guidebook which contains impairment listings, essentially a list of impairments, if you will, to assess the severity of your disabling condition.
If you meet the requirements of an impairment listing you may qualify for disability benefits. If you do not meet the requirements of an impairment listing, you may still qualify for disability through a decision process that A) determines, based on your medical records, what you are still able to do (your residual functional capacity) and then B) compares this functional assessment to your work history. This is done to answer the question of whether or not you are able to return to work activity. This decision process is both medical and vocational in nature.
The Medical Vocational Allowance Decision
Medical vocational allowances require a disability examiner to determine your residual functional capacity (i.e. the functional capabilities that you have remaining).
In order to get an idea of your functional limitations, they use your medical information along with the information provided on your activities of daily living questionnaire--which is completed by you--and a third party ADL questionnaire, which is completed by someone who is aware of your condition and how it affects you. The third-party questionaire is usually completed by a relative, neighbor, or friend.
It is at this point in the evaluation process that your work history report forms come into play. The work history report form allows you to describe the mental and physical demands of your past jobs. After the examiner determines your residual functional capacity rating, or RFC rating, they must evaluate your ability to perform any of your past jobs.
If the disability examiner finds that you are unable to perform any of your past work, they are able to move to the final step of determining if you are able to do any other work when considering the following factors: your residual functional capacity, job skills, age and education. If the disability examiner finds that are unable to work at any other kind of job, as well as being unable to return to your past due to your condition, you may be able to get on disability.
Notifications of Decisions
After the disability examiner makes a decision on your disability claim, they will immediately mail you a formal denial letter if your disability claim is denied. If your disability determination results in a medical disability approval, your disability claim will be sent back to your local Social Security office for final adjudication.
Once your disability claim has been sent back to your local Social Security office, a Social security claims representative will review your disability claim to determine if you still meet all the non-medical requirements of the Social Security disability program.
At this point, Social Security disability claimants have only one non-medical requirement it is that they must not be engaging in SGA work activity. However, SSI disability claimants must also meet the income and resource (assets) limits of the SSI program.
If Social Security determines that you qualify for SSI and/or Social Security disability benefits, they will mail you an official award letter. The award letter most often states that you have been approved for disability benefits, how much you can expect your monthly benefits to be, and when you should expect your disability benefits to begin.
Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center
The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits
Social Security Disability and SSI Back Pay Benefits
Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work
How long does it take for Social Security Disability or SSI?
Social Security Disability SSI Awards and Award Notices
Tips, Mistakes, How to Qualify, and How to Win Disability
Tips and Advice for Social Security Disability and SSI Claims
Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability
Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify for Disability Benefits
Winning Social Security Disability or SSI, How to Win
Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative
What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials
Social Security Disability and SSI Appeal Process - How to file appeals
Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney
Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits
SSI Disability Benefits, Questions and Answers
Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability
Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children
Disability Benefits through Social Security
Information to start with regarding Disability Claims
An Overview of Social Security Disability and SSI
What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?
The Disability Requirements to be eligible for SSD and SSI Benefits
Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
Social Security Disability and SSI Applications
Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions and Impairments
Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records
Filing your claim for disability benefits
Eligibility for receiving disability benefits
Resources on this site
Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions
Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI
About the Author of SSDRC, Tim Moore
The SSDRC Disability Blog
For Individuals living in North Carolina
Disability in North Carolina
North Carolina Disability Lawyer
Getting disability in North Carolina
Has my Disability Claim Been Approved?
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Advice to Win Social Security Disability and SSI Benefit Claims
How Quickly Is The Disability Claim Decision Made?
What is the SSI and Social Security Disability Application Wait Time?
How do you get an SSI disability application and Claim started?
Avoiding Mistakes to get your Disability Claim Approved
How to Claim Disability Benefits through Social Security
How to claim disability benefits in North Carolina
Is it possible that I will lose my disability benefits when my case is reviewed?
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