Social Security Disability Application Process

How to Apply for SSDI or SSI

There are several ways you can apply for Social Security disability benefits. You can make an appointment at your local Social Security office and fill out an application with them. As long as it is for Social Security disability and not SSI you also have the option of applying on-line at the SSA website. You can also call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 and have them send you all the forms required so that you can apply. You would simply fill out these forms and to send them back in the mail.  SSI Applications must be done at your local SSA office. You could also get help with your application by having your SSDI lawyer apply with you. Not all attorneys take cases at the application stage of the process but many including myself do so if you want a lawyer and they tell you to call them back when you are denied you could simply try another Social Security disability lawyer.

How is SSDI Application Processed

I will now explain what happens to your application after it is submitted to Social Security using any of the methods above. The application paperwork is processed by the Social Security field offices which I like to refer to as the local offices. For the most part, the Social Security field office checks the non-disability related factors. By this I mean birth certificates, work credits, address changes and other non-disability relevant information. They check to make sure the information you gave them is correct and completed and also check to see if you qualify for SSD or SSI based on the non-medical requirements. And then SSDI case they would be checking to make sure you have enough work credits and when you are insured status runs out. In an SSI case they would do a check to see if your income and resources are potentially low enough to make you eligible for SSI benefits. After this is all done, your case is then sent to disability determination services or DDS. At DDS it is their job to collect medical evidence and determine if you are medically disabled under Social Security rules using the five step Social Security disability test also called the sequential evaluation process. To do this they will try and get medical records you tell them about. They may also send you to a Social Security consultative examination. This is a doctors examination paid for by Social Security. DDS also has one or more doctors review your medical records and give opinions related to whether or not you are disabled and what your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) from your medical condition(s) are. After DDS complete this work they will then make a determination as to whether or not you are medically disabled under Social Security rules. If they decide you are disabled your case is then sent back to the Social Security field office (local SSA office). The local SSA office then will check again to see if you meet the non-medical requirements and then calculate your benefits based on when DDS found that you became disabled. The local office will then send you an explanation of your benefits which will include the amount of past due benefits owed to you and how much you will receive each month along with an explanation as to when you are entitled to Medicare or Medicaid depending on the type of benefit you were granted. You will then receive your past due benefits and your first monthly benefit. Often times because of the processing time it takes to get you an explanation of your benefits you may find that you actually get your payment before an explanation of your benefits.  This can sometimes mean you get your payment even before you are notified you have won your case. If you are denied medically by DDS or denied for non-medical reasons you will be notified by a letter from your local SSA office. If you are denied it will be explained this letter how you can appeal the decision. Your file will stay at the local Social Security field office while they wait to see if you appeal the decision. You make this appeal to your local SSA office and the type of appeal depends on the state in which you live. In some states, they have what is called a reconsideration stage. If you are in one of these states then when you appeal your case it is handled basically the same as it was when you applied accept that new people at the local office and DDS will gather any new information medical evidence and make a decision as to whether or not you are disabled. This explains why there is such a high denial rate at reconsideration which is usually around 90%.