If you’ve been struggling with a mental or physical condition (or any combination of both) that’s making it impossible for you to work, you may find yourself making the painful decision to file for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Where do you even start? It can help to understand some of the basics.
Are you eligible for SSD?
To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, you must meet certain criteria. First, you must have a condition that prevents you from working and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. Both mental and physical conditions – or any combination of both – have the potential to qualify.
Additionally, you must have earned sufficient work credits through employment covered by Social Security. When you begin your application, Social Security will help you understand if you have enough credits to qualify. SSD is not needs-based, so your family’s other income and resources are not an issue for your claim.
How do you file for SSD?
You can file your application for SSD benefits online at the Social Security Administration (SSA) website, over the phone, or by scheduling an appointment at your local SSA office. The application requires information about your medical condition, work history and other relevant details.
You will be asked for information that supports your claim. This includes your medical records, work history and any other relevant evidence that shows the severity and impact of your condition on your ability to work. However, you do not have to have all your medical records ready when you file your claim. The more you have, the faster the process may go, but SSA will try to obtain your medical records for you so long as you can direct them to your providers.
What happens after you file for SSD?
After you submit your application, it will be reviewed by a team at the Disability Determination Services (DDS). DDS evaluates your medical evidence to assess the severity of your condition, your ability to work and prognosis to see if it meets SSA’s criteria for disability.
It can take several months to get a decision, and many initial claims are erroneously denied. If that happens to you, you can and should file an appeal within the 60-day time limit specified in your denial notice. This first level of appeal is called a Reconsideration.
It’s important to note that the Social Security Disability process can be lengthy and complex. Seeking legal guidance can improve your chances of a successful outcome for both your initial claim and upon appeal, if necessary.