Applying Online for Disability: Tips on Answering Social Security's Questions
Here's what you need to know to file an application for Social Security disability benefits online.
If you are applying for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), you can begin your application process online with Social Security's online application. However, before you start the application, you should gather the information together that you will need to complete it. You can always save the application and return to it later, or correct any mistakes you make at a later date.
If you are going to apply online, you will need the following information handy:
- email address
- phone number
- Social Security number
- physical address
- mailing address
- any other Social Security numbers used in the past
- place of birth
- date of last day worked
- prior names used (for example names from any previous marriages and maiden names)
- spouse’s name, birth date, Social Security number, and date of marriage for any marriages that lasted at least ten years (if married)
- date of any divorces
- name and age of children
- information about military service prior to 1968
- dates of employment and employers’ names
- type of work you performed
- your total income for the each of the last three years
- copy of most recent Social Security earnings statement
- information about any income on which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes
- information about any income received in a specific year was from work done in a different year
- information on any worker’s compensation awards
- information about any current or future payments you expect to get from your employer
- whether your spouse worked for the railroad for at least five years, and
- your bank account information (for direct deposit).
If you are missing any of the information, you can either save the application and return to it later, or you can provide it to the Social Security Administration (SSA) at a later date.
You will be assigned an application number as soon as you start the online application process. You must keep track of this number. If you need to stop the application process and return to it later, you will need this number to access your online application. You will also need your application number when you call the SSA to track the status of your application, or to track your application online. If you lose your application number, the SSA has no way to retrieve it, and you will have to start over.
Place of Birth
When you state your place of birth, choose “United States or U.S. Territory” if you were born in one of the following places:
- the 50 states,
- the District of Columbia,
- the U.S. Virgin Islands,
- the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
- Guam or American Samoa, or
- the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
If you are a citizen, you must also tell the SSA whether you are:
- a U.S. citizen born inside the U.S.
- a U.S. citizen born outside the U.S., or
- a naturalized citizen.
If you were born any other place than those listed above, select “Other.” Names of countries may change over time; therefore, select the name of your country as it was when you were born. For example, if you were born in the former Yugoslavia, select that name from the list.
The SSA may ask you to prove your citizenship or otherwise show you are eligible for benefits. Even if you are not a citizen, you may still be eligible (you can learn more by reading our article on immigrants and disability benefits).
The SSA will ask if you were in military service prior to 1968. You should answer “yes” to the question about military service if you served prior to 1968 in Active Duty, Active Duty for Training, or in the Reserves in any of the following branches.
- Air Force
- Coast Guard
- Coast & Geodetic Survey
- National Guard
- Navy, or
- Commissioned Officer in the Public Health Service.
You must provide the name the branch of the military you served in, your dates of services, your current status, and your position.
You will also need to provide information about any benefits you receive, or are eligible to receive, from your military service or from a civilian federal agency.
The SSA now requires that disability recipients have a bank account to allow for direct deposit of benefits. If you don’t have an account, call the SSA to see if there are any options for you, including using a DirectExpress debit card or getting an exemption from the Department of the Treasury. You can still complete the application online.
Social Security Earnings Statement
The SSA will ask whether you agree with your most recent SSA earnings statement. If you don’t have a copy, you can continue to the next section. However, before you submit the application make sure you request one from the SSA so you can review it. You can also access your statement online, but you will need to create an account.
Employees, Officers, or Relatives of a Family or Closely Owned Corporation
If you are a corporate officer, relative of a corporate officer, or employee of a family or closely owned corporation, be prepared to provide evidence of whether you receive additional compensation from these sources. You won’t need this information to complete your online application. The SSA may use this to adjust benefit amounts.
Money From Employers
You must provide the SSA with the amount of any money you have received from your employer since you last worked. You must also tell the SSA if you expect to receive any money in the future from your employer, and how much the payment will be. In both cases, you will need to describe the payment as sick pay, vacation pay, or other.
Support for a Parent
You need to tell the SSA if you provide at least half the support for one, or both, of your parents. The SSA will ask you to provide the name and address of the parent(s) you support.
Ability to Work
You will be asked about the medical conditions that keep you from working. It is important that you list every medical condition that you suffer from. This is because some illnesses qualify for automatic approval (see our article on winning your claim using a “listing”) and because the SSA will consider the combined effect of all your impairments on your ability to work (see our article on how to win your claim using a combination of impairments).
At the end of the application, you will be asked whether you consent to have your medical records disclosed to the SSA. You must select “yes” if you want the SSA to collect records on your behalf.
The SSA provides an area at the end of the application for you to provide any additional remarks you may have that you think are helpful. For example, you may need to provide an explanation if you estimated your employment dates or income amounts. You do not need to complete this section if you don't have anything additional to add.
Submitting and Signing the Application
Once you submit your application, it must be printed, signed, and submitted to the SSA within six months or you will have to start over again. Also, as long as you submit the signed application within the six-month time frame, the date you began the application can be used as your official application date. You must send your signed application to your local field office. Find the contact information for your local field office.
Consider Contacting an Attorney
The application process can be lengthy and confusing. You should contact an experienced disability attorney if you have questions about any stage of the process. To find a disability attorney in your area, visit our attorney locator page.