How do I apply for Social Security disability?

Categorized: Social Security

How do I apply for Social Security disability?

How you apply for Social Security disability depends on whether you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You can apply in person, via phone, or online for both types of benefits, with some exceptions.

Applying In Person

The SSA maintains offices all over the country. If you want to apply in person, you can contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) and schedule a meeting with a representative at the office closest to your home. The representative gathers information about your claim, and the SSA uses this information to make a decision.

You can have an attorney present at your interview. Doing so might help your chances of approval. An attorney can make sure you present your case in the most favorable light, and provide the best answers to the representative’s questions.

Applying Via Phone

You can also elect to have a phone interview with a field representative. The format is similar to an in-person interview, except it takes place via phone or video conference. Again, you can have an attorney present for the interview.

A phone interview is a good option if you want to work one-on-one with a field representative, but cannot travel to an office for an in-person appointment.

Applying Online

The SSA now allows some disability applicants to file for benefits online. If you are applying for SSDI, or you are filing for SSI and it is your first time applying and you have never been married, you have the option of doing so through the SSA’s website.

Note: If you are an SSI applicant who is or has been married, has applied in the past, or is applying on behalf of a dependent child, you cannot apply online and must schedule an appointment with a field representative.

What forms must I file with my application?

Both SSDI and SSI require you to fill out specific forms, as well as submit certain supporting documentation, such as your medical diagnosis and proof of income.

The forms you must complete are as follows:


The most important part of your SSDI application is Form SSA-16. This is your application for benefits. It features approximately 30 questions about your health, income, work history, and so forth.

One important question on Form SSA-16 regards the onset date of your disability. This is the date you first became disabled. The earlier the date, the more back pay you might be eligible to receive. If you are not sure when your condition started, an attorney can help you gather medical records and other evidence.

Also, the application asks not only about your specific diagnosis, but about the functional limitations caused by your condition. Pay close attention to this question. The SSA awards benefits based on how your condition limits your ability to work and carry out activities of daily living. The more supporting documentation you have to show a high degree of functional limitation, the better your chances of approval.

You also must fill out Form SSA-3368-BK. This form asks about the nature and extent of your disability. Once again, it is crucial to be thorough here and to include as much supporting medical documentation as possible.


An SSI application features two forms. The first is Form SSA-8000-BK. This is the basic application form, which asks questions similar to the SSDI form.

Also, SSI applicants, like those filing for SSDI, must fill out Form SSA-3368-BK. The only exception is when you are filing on behalf of a dependent child. Then, you would fill out Form SSA-3820-BK, which asks for information about your child’s condition rather than your own.

Can I apply for both SSDI and SSI?

Yes. You can always apply for both SSDI and SSI; however, qualifying for both is difficult. This usually happens when a person qualifies for SSDI based on her work history, but receives a low payment. A Social Security disability attorney can help you determine if this is an option you might be able to pursue.

Do I qualify for SSDI or SSI?

SSDI and SSI are two very different programs with substantial differences in approval criteria.

SSDI is an insurance program for workers who become disabled. The payroll taxes automatically deducted from your paycheck serve as “premiums” and help fund the program. If you become disabled and qualify for benefits, the amount of time you worked and how much you paid into the program while working determines your compensation amount. Only those who have a sufficient work history and have paid into Social Security qualify for benefits.

SSI, by contrast, is a welfare program for the needy. To qualify, your household’s income and assets must be below a certain level. This level can vary year to year. While the income level is low, the SSA does not count all types of income.

Call an attorney for help determine which program you might qualify for.

Do I need a lawyer?

You are not required to have a lawyer to apply for either SSDI or SSI. But it is a good idea to talk to one before applying and to get answers to any questions you might have. The SSA does not have a reputation for being the easiest group to work with, and complaints abound of applicants receiving denials for arbitrary reasons, despite having seemingly solid claims.

A skilled attorney can make sure your application is strong and compelling, and that it is not missing any crucial evidence or information. Call Cordisco & Saile LLC for help today: 215-642-2335.

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