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

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.

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:

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?
How long do I have to be off work to file for disability?
How long does it take to get a decision for a disability appeal?
How much money can I get with SSDI?

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.