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Social Security Disability Benefits: Applying and Appealing

Watch this video to learn about how to apply and appeal for disability at Social Security. This video covers federal laws so the information in it is true no matter what state you live in.

Common Questions

If I am disabled, what benefits can I apply for from the Social Security Administration?

The Social Security Administration administers 2 programs for people who have disabilities- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  People who have a disability may be able to qualify for benefits under either program.

SSDI pays benefits to people who have physical and mental conditions that prevent people from working if you worked long enough and paid social security taxes. The condition must be expected to last for at least 12 months or to end in death.  Learn more about SSDI here.

SSI pays benefits to help disabled adults and children who have very limited income and assets. Learn more about SSI here.

Do I need a lawyer to represent me?

You do not need a lawyer to represent you in your appeals, but it’s better if you can have a lawyer. There are many complicated issues and regulations to be dealt with. Statistics show that there is a better rate of success if you have someone assisting you. Unlike many attorneys, disability lawyers do not charge up-front fees or require a retainer to work on a Social Security disability case. Most disability attorneys and advocates will be paid a fee only if they win the case (this is called a contingency fee.)

Your representative does not have to be a lawyer. Paralegals and other non-lawyers are allowed to represent you in an appeal, but be careful who you have as a representative. Make sure they are qualified and experienced.

Am I eligible to receive SSDI benefits?

SSDI pays monthly benefits to workers who can no longer work because of a significant illness or condition that is expected to last at least a year or to result in death within a year. Payments begin after you have been disabled for at least five full months. Payments usually start in your sixth month of disability.

How do I apply for SSDI?

You can file an application on the Social Security online.

You can also schedule an appointment with a local Social Security office to file an application for SSI. Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday or contact your local Social Security office.

You will need to provide a lot of information when you file an application for SSDI.  This is a helpful checklist that will help you get together the information you will need to provide when you apply. 

I was turned down for SSDI benefits. Is there anything I can do?

You have to the right to ask SSA to reconsider its decision. Many applications are approved on appeal. If you ask SSA to reconsider, it will review its decision. You must fill out a Request for Reconsideration form. You can get the form at your local office, by calling their toll-free phone number, or by going on their website. SSA must receive the form within 60 days plus five days for mailing of the date you received the notice of denial, or you must have a good reason if you request reconsideration late.

Am I eligible for SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available to disabled individuals who have never worked or who have not worked enough to qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). SSI is also available to children with physical or mental disabilities. Eligibility for SSI is subject to income and asset limits.

How do I apply for SSI?

You can schedule an appointment with a local Social Security office to file an application for SSI. Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday or contact your local Social Security office.

You may be able to apply for SSI online if you meet certain requirements. 

You will need to provide a lot of information when you file an application for SSI.  This is a helpful checklist that will help you get together the information you will need to provide when you apply. 

I was turned down for SSI benefits. Is there anything I can do?

If you were turned down for SSI, you have to the right to ask SSA to reconsider its decision. Many SSI applications are approved on appeal. If you ask SSA to reconsider, it will review its decision. You must fill out a Request for Reconsideration form which you can get at your local office, by calling their toll-free phone number or here. SSA must receive the form within 60 days plus five days for mailing of the date you received the notice of denial, or you must have a good reason if you request reconsideration late.