How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?
If you believe you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, the first step you must take is to apply for those benefits. You will need to fill out an “Initial Application for Benefits” with the Social Security Administration in order to begin the process.
The Initial Application for Social Security Benefits
Generally speaking, we recommend that you take this first step on your own. If you are approved for benefits immediately after you apply, there is no reason for an attorney to be involved. The application may seem intimidating, but most people are able to answer the application questions without much difficulty. The application simply provides information for Social Security on your case.
Some of the information you will be asked to provide for your SSDI application:
- Basic background information about yourself
- The date when you became disabled
- What medical conditions you have
- Who your doctors and healthcare providers are
- What your work experience has been
RSH Legal offers a free guide book with some tips on how to complete a Social Security application, including a checklist of things to collect before you start the application and then suggestions on how to answer key questions during the application process. You can order our free Law Guide to Iowa Social Security Disability Claims by filling out the form on this page.
Once you have gathered all of the information you need, you have two options:
- File your application online (for SSDI) by going to socialsecurity.gov.
- Contact your local Social Security office by phone to set up a phone interview or in-person appointment. Currently in order to apply for SSI, a person needs to schedule a phone interview or an in person meeting with the SSA. Our free guide book has a list of local Social Security offices, or you can call us at 1-319-519-4193 and we will look up the number for your office.
Tips to Filling Out Your Social Security Application
- One of the questions on the application is “when did you become disabled?” Social Security will call this your “onset date.” For some people that had a sudden change in health or have had an accident, this date may be obvious. It could make sense to put down the date of an accident or emergency hospitalization.
However, if your health has more gradually declined over a period of time, it might be more difficult to figure out a specific date. In that situation, it will make more sense to put down the last day you worked or the day you made changes to your work routine. The date you settle on needs to be related to when you became unable to work. Do keep in mind that this date can be changed later in your case if it needs to be.
- Be as complete and accurate as possible when filling out your application. Social Security will use the answers you give to track down your medical records. However, they will only try to find the records that you tell them about that are generally within one year prior to your alleged onset date, so make sure your list of healthcare providers is complete and has their correct information.
How the Social Security Administration Evaluates Your Case
Once you’ve submitted your application, Social Security may evaluate your case by:
- Ordering the medical records
- Sending you some questionnaires to fill out about your symptoms, your day-to-day activity level, or your work history.
- Depending on how complete your own medical records are, Social Security might arrange for you to see a doctor for evaluation or diagnosis.
You should receive your first decision from Social Security within two to four months. If you receive a denial notice, call our office at 1-319-519-4193. We will be able to tell you what your next steps should be.