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9 Helpful Tips for Applying for Social Security Disability

Updated on April 28, 2020

1. See a Doctor

One of the first things I would recommend when applying for disability benefits is to see a doctor. Whether it be a primary care physician, psychologist or a specialist, the first step is to have your medical condition documented. Be honest with the doctor about your pain or discomfort levels and how your illness affects your daily living. If the doctor suggests seeing you on a routine basis, be sure to follow up with your doctor regarding your health issues.

Social Security will ask for medical documentation regarding your disability. You'll want to be prepared with this information when you apply for disability benefits. If you are not currently seeing a doctor, Social Security may send you to one of their doctors for evaluation. However, I think it would be better to see your own doctor so that you can build a rapport with him/her.

2. Hiring a Lawyer

It is your right to be represented by a lawyer if you feel the need to so when applying for Social Security disability benefits. Some lawyers will work with you for free during the application and appeals process. However, if you win the case, they will take a small percentage of your back-pay or Social Security payments. If you are interested in having a lawyer help you during this process, you can do a search for disability lawyers in your area. They should also be able to give you helpful tips on applying.

3. Contacting Social Security

If you feel you are ready to apply for benefits, you can call Social Security's toll-free number or visit the Social Security website at You can request an application be sent to your home if you call. If you visit the website, you can apply for disability benefits using an online application. You can also find a local Social Security office and walk in to ask for an application.

4. Find All Forms of Identification

Social Security will most likely ask you for your social security number, ID card, possibly a birth certificate or other form of identification. Gather all of the information that they may request so that you can have it ready when necessary. Doing this ahead of time can prevent any delays in the process. If you need a new social security card, you may want to request one from their website at or call their toll free number.

5. Filling out the Paperwork

A very important step in the process of applying for Social Security disability is to fill out all of the necessary paperwork on the application. On these papers, you will find questions that ask about how your medical condition affects your daily living, chores, activities and of course, your ability to work full time.

Make sure to fill in every question that is asked of you and be honest. If you can not walk up steps, make sure to write that on your application. If you have a mental health issue and you can not leave your home, explain why you can not leave the home. Write out all of the details explaining your illness/illnesses so that the Social Security representatives can have a better understanding your limitations.

If you have more than one illness, make sure to tell Social Security about that as well. You want to give them as much information as possible about your medical conditions and how they affect your daily life. You may also be asked who your doctors are and what they are treating you for. Your doctor will most likely be contacted by Social Security for your medical records.

6. Waiting

After you have filled out the initial disability application, now you must wait to hear a response from Social Security. This process may take a very long time or it could take a short time. It all depends on how backed up Social Security is at the time as well as the nature of your case. There are a lot of other people applying for disability, so patience is very important in this phase. I suggest you continue seeing your doctor during this time, if possible.

7. Appeal, If Necessary

If you receive a denial letter from Social Security stating that you do not meet the disability criteria, you may be able to appeal your case. You can appeal by applying again for benefits. This time you may have more solid medical evidence in your files. By appealing, you show the Social Security department that you are serious and that you truly can not work due to the nature of your medical condition. After appealing, you will wait again for another response. This process could take a long time.

8. Attending a Hearing

If you are denied again for disability payments, you might receive a letter saying that you can attend a hearing. This will allow you to talk to a judge about your medical condition during a hearing in a small courtroom setting. This is the stage where you may want to be represented by a lawyer. Attending a hearing may sound difficult because you will be exposed and will have to talk about your medical condition in front of others.

The advice I can give you is to attend the hearing. Be on time and as I always say, be honest about your medical problems and how they affect your life. Let the judge know of any limitations you may have throughout the day. Tell the judge how your pain, discomfort and/or energy levels affect your ability to work and support yourself. Pain doesn't have to be physical pain, it can also be from mental illness as well. People with severe depression can experience emotional or mental pain. Be sure to tell the judge all of the pain you experience as well as how it affects you and your life.

9. If Denied, Apply All Over Again

If the judge does not agree that you are considered disabled under Social Security's rules, you can fill out another application and apply again. This process can seem so discouraging, but please, I advise that if you feel you are disabled and really cannot work a full-time job, keep going.

Fill out another application and keep seeing your doctor regularly. If your doctor feels that you are disabled, ask if he/she can write a letter to Social Security explaining why they consider you to be disabled. You want to show that are persistent and really need these disability benefits. You might want to get letters from friends or family who know of your medical condition and have them write about you on your behalf as well.


Having a medical condition that affects your daily life and applying for Social Security disability may seem very stressful. I have written out these tips to help you along the way, but to sum it all up, the most important thing I think is to be receiving regular medical care. I cannot stress this enough. Social Security will most likely want to know that you have been diagnosed and are seeking treatment for your medical condition, whether it be physical and/or mental.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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