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SSDI: Guidelines For Applying For Benefits


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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:

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