How Social Security Disability Benefits Work

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People who cannot work for at least one year or who are terminally ill may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits. In order to receive these payments, they must be totally disabled. There are also certain earning requirements that must be met for the applicant to be eligible for benefits. Because the process can take three to five months to complete, Social Security disability benefits should be applied for as soon as the person knows he/she is disabled.

There is specific personal, medical and financial information that the Social Security Administration requires to make a determination of disability. It is easiest if the person applying gathers the information together before filling out the Social Security disability forms. The required information will help answer some of the questions on the application. For identification, a birth or baptismal certificate and social security number are needed. Copies should be made of any medical records in the applicant’s possession. Provide a list of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all doctors, clinics and hospitals along with dates of visits or stays. Write down all medications being taken along with the dosages. Supply information about any laboratory and test results. Applicants will also have to state their occupation and place of employment and provide copies of W-2s or copies of their federal income tax return, if self-employed.

The application for Social Security Benefits and the Disability Report are two of the forms that must be filled out. There are also other Social Security disability forms related to the applicant’s medical condition and how it affects his/her ability to work. When the application is received, it is reviewed. If the basic requirements are met and the forms and documentation are complete, the application is sent to the Disability Determination Services office in the applicant’s state. This agency completes the decision about whether or not benefits will be awarded. They interview the applicant’s doctors about the disabling condition. If there are any questions, the applicant may be asked to go for a special medical exam. When a decision is reached, the applicant will receive a letter of acceptance or denial. If accepted, the award letter will tell the amount of the benefit and when it will start. Benefits begin the sixth full month after the date of disability. Benefit amounts are based on the applicant’s average lifetime earnings. An unfavorable decision may be appealed.