Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
Mental Disability | What is a disability? | Tips
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Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

Tips to Prepare for Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI

Filing for Social Security Disability (SSD) will ordinarily begin with contacting your local social security office and requesting an appointment for a disability application interview.

SSA (the social security administration) does offer the option of filing online; however, there are reasons why this may not be practical: A) most disability claims will require some degree of followup with the local social security office; B) online filing does not offer the opportunity for a claimant to ask a question and receive an answer; C) while a social security disability claim can be filed online with a protected filing date, an SSI claim cannot.

By contrast, when filing the claim through the local social security office, the interview can be set to occur in person at the office or over the phone, making it far easier for both the applicant and the social security claims representative to give and obtain the information that is needed to initiate the claim.

However, before you call the social security office, you should consider the following items and also get certain information together in order to help your evaluation interview go more smoothly.

Note: SSA now states that the option of filing an SSI claim will soon be available and this may possibly be true by the time you read this page.

Are you currently working and, if so, how much are you making?

Consider if your wages/earnings exceed the maximum amount allowed for those who receive SSD (social security disability) or SSI (supplemental security income). Your monthly gross income must be below a certain dollar amount for you to be eligible to apply for, or receive, disability benefits from the social security administration. That amount is SGA, which stands for substantial gainful activity.

The SGA amount is subject to change from year to year based on inflation. Those who are not working, or earn less than the SGA amount, at the time of filing a claim for disability will have their claim fully evaluated on the basis of their medical records.

Individuals who earn the SGA amount or higher will have their claim quickly denied on the basis of SGA-level earnings (i.e. their case will not be assigned to a disability examiner and their medical records will not be requested). To see the current SGA amount, please visit this page: The substantial gainful activity earnings limit.

To reiterate, if you are still working, this does not mean that you cannot file for disability or receive disability benefits--you can as long as your wages are below the allowable limit. The important thing to remember, for an individual who has one or more physical or mental impairments, is not to file when you are earning more than the limit.

Equally important to remember is that if your income falls below this level as a result of your condition (e.g. causing you to reduce time on the job or to stop work altogether), you should immediately apply for disability at your nearest social security office.

Does/Will your Physician support your claim for disability?

You may wish to speak with your treating physician, to get an idea as to whether or not the doctor will be supportive of your disability claim. Why? The majority of claims are denied at the disability application level and an even higher percentage are denied at the reconsideration appeal level (the request for reconsideration is the first appeal). For claimants who are denied at these levels, the best opportunity for an approval will be at a hearing before an administrative law judge.

In preparing for a disability hearing, an attorney will typically attempt to obtain a medical source statement from your treating physician (essentially verifying that you have limitations to the extent that you are unable to engage in work activity that provides a substantial and gainful income). In some cases, it may be best to ask your physician up front if he or she is willing to get involved in the process — some doctors will not because they are not willing to commit to the time or the effort, and if this is true, you will need to find a physician who is willing to put his or her opinion in writing.

Supplying Social Security with your medical history

Get your medical history information in order. Disability claims are ultimately decided on medical records. And the biggest delay on most cases, of course, has to do with obtaining records; therefore, a claimant should always provide detailed information regarding their medical treatment sources. You should provide social security with your complete medical history, including medical conditions, dates and locations of treatment, and contact information for the attending physician at the time of treatment.

The highest emphasis that SSA will place is on current medical evidence. "Current" is defined as medical records that have been generated in the last 90 days, meaning that you have been seen by a doctor within the last 90 days. Without current evidence, it will be impossible to be given a disability approval. And it is for this reason that so many claimants are sent to social security consultative medical exams, simply so that recent evidence can be obtained.

However, while the social security office may inform a claimant that they only need to provide information regarding their most recent medical treatment, a claimant should provide dates of older treatment as well. Older records are important because they establish how far back a disabling condition may exist. Older medical records can support an earlier onset date and this can have an immediate impact on how soon a person may become eligible for medicare (that is, if their claim is for social security disability--SSI recipients receive medicaid) as well as how much they may receive in disability back pay.

Supplying Social Security with your work history

You will be asked to provide a written work history more than once during this process. Record all jobs you’ve performed within the last 15 years, noting duties and responsibilities of each position. Remember that your past work will help the examiner decide what work you may or may not be fit to perform in your current medical condition.

By supplying the necessary information, your disability claim will be better positioned for processing which can allow it to move more quickly through the system as opposed to a claim for which a disability examiner will have to devote more (sometimes considerably more) processing time in order to gather the information necessary to even work on the claim.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    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

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    Related pages:

    Tips for Getting Disability Approved When you File with Social Security
    Tips on how to file for disability
    Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
    Tips to Prepare for Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI
    What should you say if you go to a Social Security Exam?
    Always list all your various symptoms on your Disability Application
    List every medical condition, physical or mental, when you file for disability
    Never minimize your pain or other symptoms because this can be used against you
    Be ready for your disability application before the process even starts
    A Tip for Making a Request for a Disability Hearing
    Social Security Disability Advice from the Wrong Sources
    Can the Social Security Office give you Bad Advice on a Disability Claim?
    Financial Help When You Are Filing For Disability
    The Judge and the decision after the disability hearing for SSDI or SSI
    Can I receive back pay all the way back to my first SSD or SSI disability claim years ago?
    What conditions qualify or get you approved for SSD or SSI disability?

    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