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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


When To Apply For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

You can start to file your claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as soon as you and your doctor believe your physical and/or mental condition(s) will keep you from working for at least one year.

A claim starts by locking in a "Filing Date." This is the first date you contact Social Security about a SSDI claim. 

As a general rule: it is never too early to file an SSDI claim.

How To Apply For SSDI

 You can start the SSDI application process in person, on line, over the telephone or by mail. We recommend you apply in person because there will be someone to help you through the process if necessary.

  • An in person interview starts with calling for an appointment. (This phone call also locks in the Filing Date mentioned above.) Don't delay calling for an appointment while you wait for documentation (such as the medical report from your doctor, a copy of your medical records, your file from work or affidavits or statements.)
  • At the interview, the Representative will complete forms on the computer by asking you questions and will review whatever evidence you bring with you. He or she will also point out areas where more information is needed

Before the interview:

  • Contact your doctor to let him or her know you are going forward with an application for SSDI and to assure that the doctor will support your position. 
  • Get affidavits and statements from co-workers and friends which confirm that your condition is disabling.
  • Review your personnel file at work for evidence that backs up your claim.
  • Complete a set of the forms Social Security uses, including worksheets, on a test basis. The exercise will help you avoid surprises and frame your answers in the best manner (without lying.)
  • Start preparing for the interview with Social Security.

How The Application Process Works

The Representative you meet with determines whether the SSDI eligibility requirements are satisfied and your paperwork is complete. Complete paperwork does not mean that at this point Social Security has all the necessary evidence. That can come later.

Once eligibility requirements are satisfied and the paperwork is complete, the claim is transferred to a state agency known in most states as Disability Determination Services (DDS). An Examiner at DDS reviews the medical evidence you provided. If more is needed, he or she gathers it.

Once all the evidence is in, the Examiner then determines whether your symptoms (Social Security calls them "impairments"), are sufficient to qualify you as "disabled" as defined by SSDI. If you have more than one health condition, and neither one alone is enough to qualify you for SSDI, the combination of health problems could make you eligible. For example, depression plus a physical condition could equal a disability for SSDI purposes.

If your claim is denied

If your claim is denied, you have a right to appeal (the appeals process applies to all Social Security programs).

If your claim is approved

For more information, see:

To Learn More

Contact Your Doctor(s)

Let your doctor know you are filing for SSDI.

  • Ask if the doctor understands the definition of "disability" that Social Security uses for purposes of SSDI. If he or she does not, give the doctor a copy of the SSDI definition of "disability." (For the definition of "disability," see "Disability" For SSDI Purposes.)
  • Be sure he or she supports your claim.  Perhaps the doctor believes you can still work if you receive an accommodation or some kind of help. If you are not familiar with the concept of an "accommodation" see Accommodation

Ask the doctor to write a medical report about your condition and how it affects you. Give the doctor guidance as to what to include in the report. (To learn more, see Medical Evidence Of Your Condition.) 

  • It would be helpful to give the doctor a copy of the documents you file with Social Security, so the doctor's answers can support rather than conflict with your answers. 
  • It would also be helpful if you give the doctor a list of what Social Security considers to be disabling about your health condition. As you will see, even if you don't have all those problems, you can still qualify for SSDI.

Ask if you can have input into a draft of the doctor's report, or to at least see the final copy before it is submitted to Social Security. The objective of reviewing the doctor's report is to assure that it is as supportive of your argument as is reasonably possible. See: What The Doctor Should Include In A Report

Request a copy of your medical records. Check the records to be sure the following parts are readable. (If you cannot read them, the odds are Social Security won't be able to either.) The parts to check are the parts which:

  • Describe your symptoms
  • Describe your symptoms'  effect on your daily and work life
  • Discuss evidence about your health condition.

If you cannot get the medical report or medical records in time to submit them at your first interview, don't hold up starting the application process. Keep pushing the doctor's office for the report and medical record. Submit the record as soon as you can after the initial meeting.

For tips about communicating with your doctor about these subjects, see: How To Talk With Your Doctor About Supporting Your Claim

NOTE: If you are seeing a new doctor, consider waiting until you see him or her a few times before bringing up the subject of disability. Doctors are not likely to support a disability claim if they think you are using them to collect a disability income rather than to get better.

How To Start Preparing For The Interview With The Social Security Representative

Create a check list of all the items you wish to take to the meeting. Review the list before going to the meeting

In addition to the items Social Security requires, include your answers to the Social Security application forms.

Don't worry about how to dress for the interview. There is no proper attire. That said:

  • It is advisable to be neat and clean. 
  • Do not dress like you're ready to exercise.

For information about the items to take, see:

Starting A Claim

A claim for SSDI is started by locking in a Filing Date. Of the different ways to lock in a Filing Date, the best is to call Social Security and ask for an in-person interview. To learn more, see: It's Never Too Early To File A Claim and Why And How To Lock In A Filing Date.

Call to set the meeting: 800.325.0778 between 7A.M. and 7P.M. Monday through Friday

  • You will be given the name and i.d. number of the person with whom you speak. Write them down.
  • You will be asked a few questions such as:
    • Your Social Security Number
    • Your health condition
    • Whether you are still working. If you are still working, see:  What If I Am Still Working?
  • You will then be given a date for an in-person or telephone interview with a Social Security Representative in a local field office. If your condition seems likely to result in death, the date for the appointment is moved up, and the rest of the process happens more quickly. We recommend that you request an interview in person. Experience shows that it is better to apply in person. To learn more, see: Alternative Ways To Start A Claim and Why Do The Interview In Person?
  • Make note in your SSDI file of both the date you called and the date for the meeting.

Get a copy of the Social Security forms that will be used when you file your claim. While the Social Security representative will officially complete the forms by typing the answers into the computer, completing the forms ahead of time as a worksheet has many advantages. See: Advantages Of Completing Social Security Forms. Also see:

Complete A Set Of Worksheets

Complete the Social Security "Medical and Job Worksheet -- Adult"

If there is any question about your ability to work, also complete a Daily Activities Worksheet and a Work Worksheet. For example, if you are a 63 year old construction worker and have lost a leg, the Social Security Worksheet is sufficient. On the other hand, if you look healthy, but aren't complete the Worksheets.

When you complete these Worksheets, be specific instead of general in your answers.

The Social Security Representative will likely complete the same forms in the computer instead of using your worksheets. However, by doing the work ahead of time you will have your thoughts in order. It will also help you think about how to answer each of the questions in the manner most likely to achieve your goal.

Your Personnel File At Work

Check files of your current and past employers for any evidence that backs up your claim that you are disabled for Social Security purposes. For example, look for:

  • Statements about how your health effected your work 
  • Poor job evaluations 
  • Warning letters regarding your performance 
  • Lists of days you did not show up for work 
  • Times when you didn't get your job done.

To learn how to get a copy of your personnel file, see: Getting Your Personnel File At Work

If the file backs up your claim, make a copy to submit to Social Security. If it doesn't, there is no reason to submit it unless you are asked specifically.

NOTE: When looking through your file, keep in mind that good job evaluations can be used to back-up a claim that you were good at your work, enjoyed it, and would go back to it if your health permitted. Just because you used to get good job evaluations, does not mean that you are not disabled now.

Affidavits And Statements To Obtain From Friends And Co-workers

Obtain affidavits or statements from family, friends and co-workers that support your claim. Submit them when you start your claim -- or as soon after that date as you can.

Before writing a statement or affidavit, it is advisable to consider the following for subjects to cover:

For samples, see:

At The Meeting With The Social Security Representative

At the interview:

  • You will be asked a series of work and medical questions. The interviewer will complete the appropriate forms on the computer. If you have already completed a work copy of the forms, you'll be prepared to answer the questions in a manner most likely to result in a "yes" to your request for a benefit.
  • You have an opportunity to provide evidence backing up your answers.
  • If you have not yet obtained the evidence, Social Security will do it for you. (We recommend that you help obtain the evidence to be sure its accurate and to get it to Social Security on a timely basis.)
  • The Social Security Representative will determine whether all the non-medical eligibility criteria are satisfied. This involves checking whether:
    • You or the worker to whom you are related have enough work credits, and 
    • If you applied soon enough after you stopped working.

A few tips for the meeting:

  • Remember you are dealing with a human being. Try to make that person into a friend.
  • If the person's name is unusual, ask the correct way to spell it, and how to pronounce it.
  • Get his or her direct phone number so you can follow up easily.
  • Ask that the representative to check to see whether you qualify, or can qualify, for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security representatives are supposed to check automatically. It cannot hurt in case the representative forgets to do it.
  • Get a receipt for all papers you deliver.
  • Ask for a copy of all forms the Representative completes. If the Representative balks, consider suggesting that you want the copy to review in case you think of additional information. It is better not to become demanding and declare your legal rights to a copy.
  • If you haven't already, review our overall tips to keep in mind. They will be a big help as you go through the process. See Overall Tips To Keep In Mind
  • If you need advice or help during this process, ask for it. No matter how sophisticated you are, you have probably never done this before.

For more information, see: