Social Security Disability Assistance
Social Security Disability Application – How to Apply
Claims for disability benefits take more time to process than other types of Social Security claims, usually anywhere from 3 to 5 months. You can help shorten the process by having certain information and documents with you when you apply, and by helping us get any other medical evidence you need to show that you are disabled.
- Here is the kind of information you should have when applying
- Your Social Security number and proof of your age;
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, caseworkers, hospitals, and clinics that took care of you and the dates of your visits;
- Names and dosages of all the medications you are taking;
- Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers, that you already have in your possession;
- Laboratory and test results;
- A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did; and
- Your most recent W-2 form or, if you were self-employed, a copy of your federal tax return.
Information About Family Members
- Social Security numbers and proof of age for each family member who may qualify for social security disability benefits and
- Proof of marriage, if your spouse is applying for social security disability as well as dates of prior marriages, if applicable.
- Important: The documents you may need to show us must be original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. You can mail or bring them to Social Security. We will make photocopies and return your original documents.
- If you don’t have all the documents you need, don’t delay filing for benefits. We will help you get the information you need.
More Help For Filing Your Claim
Our Disability Starter Kit will help you get ready for your disability interview or online application. Starter kits are available in English or Spanish for adults and children under age 18.
The online Application for Benefits also includes links to information that will help you complete the form.
Social Security Disability Forms
Find a majority of the SSA forms needed to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits on the SSA Forms Page. All forms are FREE. Not all forms are listed. If you can’t find the form you need, or you need help completing a form, please call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office and we will help you. If you download, print and complete a paper form, please mail or take it to your local Social Security office or the office that requested it from you.
Social Security Disability Benefit Amounts
The average Social Security disability benefit amount for a recipient of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in 2017 is $1,171 per month, but a beneficiary can receive either less than this or up to $2,687. These benefits are based on average lifetime earnings, not on household income or how severe the individual’s disability is. The total amount a disabled worker and his or her family can receive is about 150% to 180% of the disabled worker’s benefit. Eligible family members can include a spouse, divorced spouse, children, a disabled child and/or an adult child disabled before age 22.
Social Security Disability Requirements – Evidentuary Requirements
Medical evidence is the cornerstone of the social security disability determination under both the title II and title XVI programs.
Each person who files a social security disability claim is responsible for providing medical evidence showing he or she has an impairment(s) and the severity of the impairment(s). However, the Social Security Administration (SSA), with the claimant’s permission, will help the claimant get medical evidence from his or her own medical sources who have evaluated, examined, or treated the claimant for his or her impairment(s). SSA also requests copies of medical evidence from hospitals, clinics, or other health facilities when appropriate.
Claimants who provide SSA with timely, accurate, and complete information and evidence can help accelerate the processing of their claims.
Existence of an impairment
By law, SSA needs specific medical evidence to establish that a claimant has an impairment. SSA regulations require “objective medical evidence” from an “acceptable medical source” to establish that a claimant has a medically determinable impairment. The regulations define these terms.
Once the existence of an impairment is established, SSA considers all evidence from all medical and nonmedical sources to assess the extent to which a claimant’s impairment(s) affects his or her ability to function in a work setting; or in the case of a child, the ability to function compared to that of children the same age who do not have impairments. Nonmedical sources include, but are not limited to: the claimant, educational personnel, public and private social welfare agency personnel, family members, caregivers, friends, neighbors, employers, and clergy.
A claimant must inform SSA about or submit all evidence known to him or her that relates to whether or not he or she is blind or disabled. This duty is ongoing and requires the claimant to disclose any additional related evidence about which he or she becomes aware throughout the administrative review process. The evidence must be complete and detailed enough for SSA to determine:
The nature and severity of the claimant’s impairment(s),
How long the claimant has experienced the impairment(s), and
Whether the claimant can still do work-related physical and mental activities with the impairment(s).
If the evidence provided by the claimant’s own medical sources is inadequate to determine if he or she is disabled, additional medical information may be sought by recontacting the medical source for additional information or clarification, or by arranging for a consultative examination (CE). Generally, a claimant’s own medical source(s) is the preferred source to perform the needed examination or test, and SSA will pay the authorized fee for the CE. However, SSA may use an independent medical source other than the claimant’s own medical source(s) to conduct the CE in several situations, such as:
the claimant’s own medical source(s) prefers not to perform the examination;
the claimant’s own medical source(s) does not have the equipment to provide the specific data needed;
there are conflicts or inconsistencies in the file that cannot be resolved by going back to the claimant’s own medical source(s);
the claimant prefers another source and has good reason for doing so;
SSA knows from prior experience that the claimant’s own medical source(s) may not be a productive source; or
the claimant’s own medical source(s) is not qualified, as is defined by regulation.
Consultative Examination Report Content
A complete CE report will involve all the elements of a standard examination in the applicable medical specialty and should include the following elements:
- the claimant’s major or chief complaint(s);
- a detailed description, within the area of specialty of the examination, of the history of the major complaint(s);
- a description, and disposition, of pertinent “positive” and “negative” detailed findings based on the history, examination, and
- laboratory tests related to the major complaint(s), and any other abnormalities or lack thereof reported or found during examination or laboratory testing;
- results of laboratory and other tests (for example, X-rays) performed according to the requirements stated in the Listing of Impairments;
- the diagnosis and prognosis for the claimant’s impairment(s);
in claims for adults, a statement about what a claimant can still do despite his or her impairment(s) and whether the claimant has one or more impairment-related limitations or restrictions in the following abilities:
- The ability to perform physical demands of work activities, such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, or other physical functions (including manipulative or postural functions, such as reaching, handling, stooping, or crouching);
- The ability to perform mental demands of work activities, such as understanding; remembering; maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; carrying out instructions; or responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, or work pressures in a work setting;
- The ability to perform other demands of work, such as seeing, hearing, or using other senses; and
- The ability to adapt to environmental conditions, such as temperature extremes or fumes;
in claims for children under age 18, a statement about the child’s impairment-related limitations and restrictions (as compared to children his or her age who do not have impairments) in:
- acquiring and using information;
- attending and completing tasks;
- interacting and relating with others;
- moving about and manipulating objects;
- caring for yourself; and
- heath and physical well-being; and
- the consultant ‘s consideration, and some explanation or comment on, the claimant’s major complaint(s) and any other abnormalities found during the history and examination or reported from the laboratory tests. The history, examination, evaluation of laboratory test results, and the conclusions will represent the information provided by the consultant who signs the report
Evidence Relating to Symptoms
In developing evidence of the effects of symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath, or fatigue, on a claimant’s ability to function, SSA investigates all avenues presented that relate to the complaints. These include evidence about:
- the claimant’s daily activities;
- the location, duration, frequency, and intensity of the pain or other symptom;
- precipitating and aggravating factors;
- the type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication;
- treatments, other than medications, for the relief of pain or other symptoms;
- any measures the claimant uses or has used to relieve pain or other symptoms; and
- other factors concerning the claimant’s functional limitations due to pain or other symptoms.
In assessing the claimant’s pain or other symptoms, SSA considers all of the above-mentioned factors. It is important that medical sources address these factors in the reports they provide.
Social Security Disability List of Impairments
The listing manual, which has been updated for 2017, includes:
- musculoskeletal problems, such as back injuries
- cardiovascular conditions, such as heart failure or coronary artery disease
- senses and speech issues, such as vision and hearing loss
- respiratory illnesses, such as COPD or asthma
- neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy
- mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, or retardation
- immune system disorders, such as HIV/AIDS, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
- various syndromes, such as Sjogren’s Syndrome and Marfan Syndrome
- skin disorders, such as dermatitis
- digestive tract problems, such as liver disease or IBD
- kidney disease and genitourinary problems, and
- hematological disorders, such as hemolytic anemias and disorders of bone marrow failure
For social security disability articles on many common conditions, some of which are in the blue book and some of which aren’t, see Medical Conditions, Impairments, and Problems.
Does a Medical Condition Have to Match the Blue Book Listing?
An individual filing for Social Security disability benefits does not necessarily have to satisfy the exact listing requirements for a particular illness or condition (such as rheumatoid arthritis) to be awarded social security disability benefits based on this condition. You can also be awarded social security disability benefits if Social Security considers aspects of your condition medically equivalent to the criteria in the listing or a related listing. This is called “equaling a disability listing.”
You can also be eligible for social security disability benefits if you don’t meet or equal the criteria for the blue book listing for your condition if your condition limits your functioning so much that you can’t work. The SSA will consider the effect of your condition on your capacity to perform routine daily activities and work and will then determine whether there is any kind of job you can safely be expected to do. For more information, see our section on how Social Security decides if your limitations make you disabled.
Does a Medical Condition Have to Be in the Blue Book?
A Social Security disability claimant doesn’t even have to have an impairment that is listed in the Social Security disability blue book to be awarded social security disability benefits. For instance, migraine headaches are not included in the blue book, but if a claimant’s migraines are severe enough and are well documented, the SSA may grant disability benefits if the migraines make it impossible for the social security disability applicant to work a full-time job. The keys here are that the condition be a medically determinable impairment and that it either reduces your RFC so that you can’t do your prior job or it qualifies you for a medical-vocational allowance.
Our website has hundreds of articles written by social security disability lawyers about getting social security disability for most medical conditions. The articles include a discussion of whether your condition meets a disability listing, equals a disability listing, or should be eligible for a medical-vocational allowance. Read about getting disability for your specific condition.
We hope this helps you find the information you need for a successful social security disability application. To receive free help with your application please visit Free SSA Disability Application Help.