If you can’t work at all due to a disabling medical condition and your doctor says it will last a year or more or end in your death, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability.
Social Security Disability is made up of two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Which one is right for you depends on how many Social Security work credits you have built up.
These two programs are part of our social safety net for people who become disabled and can’t work.
- SSDI is available to most people who have been working regularly. You pay for this insurance through your Social Security taxes.
- SSI is for people of limited means who have not built up sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI.
The first step is to gather your medical records and other evidence
Whether you will be applying for SSDI or SSI, you will need documents and other information to demonstrate that you have a disabling medical condition and that you can’t work as a result.
You must be able to show the Social Security Administration that your disability prevents you from performing any substantial gainful activity. This means that you can’t do your previous job, if you had one, and also that you can’t work any other job for which you are qualified.
For SSD, you can have an attorney help you with your initial application. If you choose not to, be sure to review the Social Security Administration’s adult disability checklist, which can help you determine how to fill out the application forms and what evidence you need to include.
For claimants who are only eligible for SSI, each claimant must apply for SSI benefits on their own at the first step. SSI claimants are not able to hire an attorney to file the first step in the application for benefits.
Once you have prepared your evidence, you will fill out and submit your application. This is easy to do online on the Social Security Administration’s website, and you may also apply by phone or in person at a local Social Security office.
The Social Security Administration will make sure you basically qualify, review your work credits and consider any current work, and then hand your application off to a Disability Determination Services agency in Illinois. This agency will determine if you have shown your medical condition is disabling.
It usually takes three to six months to hear back from the Social Security Administration. You should be prepared for a denial, unfortunately. Many people with legitimate claims are denied at this initial step.
What to do if your application is denied
Don’t panic. There are opportunities to appeal and many appeals are successful. If you did not have a lawyer help you apply initially, you should hire one now. Your attorney’s fees are set by law and paid only if you obtain benefits and only at the end of your case.