How is Social Security Disability and SSI Awarded?

Social Security has a defined disability evaluation process through which Social Security Disability and SSI disability benefits are awarded. An individual must first apply for disability benefits by completing a disability application with Social Security. There are a couple of ways an individual can file their application for disability with Social Security.

Currently, Social Security offers an online disability application process for Social Security Disability. An individual can file their disability application, complete their disability report form (the form used to gather medical source information, work history, medications, tests, etc), and print their medical release forms on SSA's website Currently, there is not online SSI disability application process.

If an individual is interested in filing for SSI, they can still use the online process to complete their Social Security Disability application, medical form, and print medical release forms, but they will have to contact Social Security to file their SSI disability application (not such a bad thing, because the individual can return their medical release forms at the same time).

If an individual does not wish to file for SSI (need based disability program), they can just complete the online information and return the signed medical release form to Social Security.

Disability applicants who are not interested in using the online disability process can file their disability claim with their local Social Security office in person or by telephone.

Individuals who file their disability claims via the phone still must sign and return their medical release forms to their Social Security office. Social Security then sends the disability claim to a state disability agency where it is assigned to a disability examiner for development. The disability examiner requests medical records from the medical source information that was provided in the medical disability report.

It is at this juncture, the disability examiner may decide to schedule a consultative examination if it is determined that there is no medical information or no current medical information addressing an individual's alleged impairments.

Generally, if there is enough evidence from listed treating sources there is no need for a consultative examination. When there is 'enough' (disability examiners do not have to get all medical records) medical evidence in the file to make the medication determination, a decision is made.

The disability examiner gives consideration to an individual's age, education, work history, and residual functional capacity (what an individual is able to do in spite of the limitations imposed upon them by the disabling condition), when an individual does not meet or equal the criteria established in the Social Security Impairment listings.

If an individual's functional limitations are so restrictive that they are unable to perform any of their past work or any other work activity, they are awarded disability benefits.

Additional information on this topic:

The Social Security Disability Approval Process and the Criteria for Decisions

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

Questions and Answers

1. How Disabling Does A Condition Have To Be For Social Security, SSDI Benefits?

2. If I get disability, will they look at my case later?

3. Can You Apply For Disability When You Lose Your Job?

4. Do You Have To Be Out Of Work For A Long Time Before You Can File For Disability?

5. If Your Disability Benefits Are Stopped Can You Get Them While You Appeal?

6. Does Social Security Disability Always Have To Look At Your Job History?

7. Social Security Disability Denial in Florida

8. When I Apply For Disability Should I List My Old Meds From Years Ago?

9. Can You Lose Your Social Security Disability Benefits When Your Case Is Reviewed?

10. Do You Automatically Get Approved For Disability If You Have Had A Stroke?

11. What Happens If I Miss My Social Security Appeal Date?

12. How Long Does Your Attorney Have To File Your Social Security Disability Appeal?

13. How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

14. What Are the Social Security Disability Requirements For Personal Assets?

15. How Long Does A Social Security Disability Appeal Take?

16. How Many Work Credits Do You Need To Have For SSI?

17. If You Get Disability Benefits, Will Your Dependents Get A Check?

18. Why Are Child SSI Cases Often Turned Down By Social Security Examiners?