Episode 2: How Do I Apply?
At this point you have passed the work and income requirements for at least one Social Security disability benefits program, SSI or SSDI. Now let’s talk about what you should expect during the application process. Though the process is a bit cumbersome, it does not have to be painful if you know what to expect and how to make it a bit easier.
Where do I go to submit my application?
How long will it take?
Online or Phone: 1-2 hours, if you prepare your information ahead of time.
In person: 1-4 hours, depending on the wait time.
I always suggest you apply online because you can start and stop your application at any time to return to it later when you can finish it. Plus, staying on hold on the phone or sitting in an SSA office for a few hours is no one’s idea of a good time. If you must go into a local SSA office, call 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment first.
What information do they ask for?
Here is the basic information you will need:
- Dates and branch of prior military service.
- Names and dates of birth of your minor children and your spouse.
- Dates of marriages and divorces.
- The date you became unable to work.
- Your mental and/or physical conditions and treatment information, including:
- contact information for medical facilities and doctors where you have received treatment in the past two years;
- medical tests you have had or are going to have; and
- medication you are taking.
- Educational history.
- Your work history for the 15 years before you became unable to work, including job title, dates worked, how many hours per day you worked, and your salary.
- Workers’ compensation information.
- Bank account information, if you want direct deposit for your benefit checks.
- Contact information for another person SSA can contact if they are unable to contact you.
Should I bring anything with me?
SSA may ask for documents that prove you are eligible, such as
- birth certificates,
- proof of citizenship,
- proof of any workers’ compensation-type benefits you receive,
- military discharge papers, and
- tax forms or returns.
If you currently have medical records in your possession, bring or mail a copy of your records to the SSA office so that they can submit them with your application. This can speed up the decision process.
IMPORTANT: You should never give SSA your only copy of medical records! They are notorious for losing records.
Once your application is completed, your case will be forwarded to Disability Determination Services, or DDS. At DDS, a claims examiner will review your medical records and other non-medical evidence to determine whether you meet SSA’s definition of disabled.
In Episode 3, we will explore in more detail what happens at DDS, including why it takes so long, and what exactly they need to see in order for them to approve your claim.