How to File Your Application for Social Security Disability Benefits
by Jonathan Ginsberg
Filing your Social Security
disability or Supplemental Security Income claim is a simple and brief process. Social Security
disability programs are available to individuals who have long term, serious medical problems that
prevent them from working. Social Security does not offer any short term disability benefits, nor
is there such thing as a partial disability benefit. To qualify your disability must be significant
and be expected to last 12 consecutive months.
Start Your Disability Claim by Calling Social
There is not cost or obligation involved in filing a claim for benefits. You can begin the
process by calling 800-772-1213, SSA's toll free number. After navigating several layers of
automated attendant prompts, you will find yourself speaking with a live operator who will take
your claim. When you speak to the operator, make sure to tell her that you wish to claim both Title
2 disability and Title 16 SSI benefits. You want to get a protective filing date for both claims
even if it later turns out that you do not qualify for one of them.
Meet With a Representative at Your Local Social Security
You can also file for SSDI or SSI by visiting your local Social Security office.
File for SSDI or SSI Online
A third alternative is to start your disability claim on-line at the official Social Security web
site. Social Security’s on-line filing system does not always work well. The on-line system
prompts you to fill out page after page of information. If you do not happen to have all of this
information handy, you have the option of saving your place and logging back in later.
Because Social Security’s on-line system permits you to review only one page of the on-line form
at a time, there is no way to know what is coming and no way to know what type of medical records
or other necessary information. In my view, this absence of a complete form to review prior to
actually filing is a drawback to the on-line application system.
Social Security Disability Claim Forms Can Be
Because Social Security does such a poor job presenting its forms and explaining how to fill
them out, I wrote a book for claimants that explains how to fill out the forms correctly. My book
is called the Disability Answer Guide and is available on the Internet.
My overall observation about Social Security’s forms, especially the forms you fill out to start
your claim, is that SSA will ask you the same question three or four times. This may be because SSA
personnel keep adding questions to the forms, but no one seems willing to delete any redundant
What You Need to Start the Disability Claim
You will need to have handy as much information as possible about the doctors, hospitals,
diagnostic clinics and other health care providers who have seen you. You will need the name,
current address, phone and fax for these medical providers.
You will also need a list of every job you have held over the past 15 to 20 years, the name and
address of your employer, the dates of employment and a brief description of your work tasks. Do
not worry if you do not have all of this employment information at hand - it is ok to estimate.
Your official Social Security file has the name and address of all of your employers and you can
update the job list later. The Social Security representative may not accept your claim if you are
still working. If you are working in a “special circumstances” work environment, make sure to
advise the rep so that she will take your claim.
Start Your Claim As Soon As Possible
Finally, I advise my clients to file their claim as soon as possible after they stop working.
SSDI claims are payable only if you have enough credit hours shown in the SSA system. Once you stop
working, you will stop earning credit hours. Normally, you remain insured for SSDI benefits for
three or four years after you stop working, but I have seen some cases where SSDI insured status
runs out more quickly. Everything else being equal, file your disability application as soon as you
realize that you will be out of work for an extended period of time.