How Do You Apply for Social Security Disability?

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits - Project Lyme

If a physical or mental health condition prevents you from working and earning a living, disability benefits available through the Social Security Administration could ease your financial challenges. Applying and qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income is complicated and frustrating. 

It can be disheartening that fewer than one-third of disability benefits claims are approved. However, remember that many claims denied during the initial application process receive approval through the appeal process. Here is what you need to know about applying for Social disability to improve your chance of a successful result.


The Social Security Administration has two programs providing disability benefits: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSI is a need-based program available to adults and children with very low income and resources valued at no more than $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for married couples where both spouses are eligible for benefits. 

SSI is not only for disabled and blind adults and children. The program also pays SSI benefits to anyone 65 and older, provided they meet the income and resource limitations.

The other disability program through the Social Security Administration is SSDI. This program is part of the Social Security Retirement system, so you must have worked for a long enough duration at jobs subject to payment of Social Security taxes on the earnings. In other words, you need to have paid into the Social Security system because SSDI benefits are equivalent to the retirement benefits you would have received had you worked until full retirement age.

Gather The Documents And Information Needed To Complete An Application

You should gather the information you’ll need to complete an application for disability benefits. To start, you’ll need the following information:

  • Information about yourself, including name, Social Security number, date and place of birth, and citizenship status.
  • Have you previously applied for Social Security benefits, SSI, or Medicare?
  • Have you ever used another Social Security number other than the one you now use?
  • Dates of active service in the U.S. military and discharge papers if you served before 1968.
  • Did you or your spouse work in the railroad industry? 
  • The name, date of birth, and Social Security number of your current spouse and any former spouses.
  • Marriage information, including dates, places, and dates, if any, when a marriage ended.
  • Names and ages of unmarried children.
  • Whether you have a parent dependent on you for at least half of their support.

You also need information about income and resources or assets owned to prove you meet the financial requirements of the SSI program. If applying for SSDI, you’ll also need W-2 forms for last year and award letters if you receive workers’ compensation benefits.

To qualify for disability benefits, you must provide information about the medical condition or conditions causing the disability. It helps to have the name and contact information of healthcare providers, including physicians and other medical professionals who have treated or evaluated your physical or mental health condition and hospitals where you’ve received treatment.

How To Apply For SSI And SSDI Benefits

An application for disability benefits may be completed online or by calling a local Social Security office to schedule an appointment to complete the application over the phone. The Social Security Administration reviews the completed application to determine whether it meets the SSI requirements for income and resources or whether you have a long enough work history to be eligible for SSDI.

If you meet financial or work requirements, the application is sent to a Disability Determination Service office in the state where you live. The DDS reviews SSI and SSDI applications and decides if applicants are disabled and eligible for disability benefits.

It’s always a good idea to seek help from a disability advocate or lawyer regarding your disability claim. The advice and guidance of a disability professional can avoid mistakes that can delay the processing of an application or result in a denial of the claim.