The application for Social Security disability (SSDI) or SSI disability is not hard to file, but it requires a lot of information. This article shows you how to file for disability in person, over the phone, or online.
SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) applicants have the option of starting their application for disability benefits online on the Social Security online filing page. SSDI is for workers who have paid Social Security taxes into the system for a certain number of years. Two exceptions: SSDI applicants who are younger than 18 or who have been denied disability benefits in the last two months must apply in person or over the phone.
What about SSI disability benefits? (SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income, for those with low income and assets.) Only some SSI applicants can apply online. The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows SSI applicants to apply online only if they're applying for SSI and SSDI benefits at the same time. In addition, the SSA will contact some SSI applicants and ask them to file a paper application, especially if they've applied for SSI in the past, have been married, or are applying for blindness or low vision.
Some applicants who are eligible to apply online decide instead to apply over the phone or in person so that they have an opportunity to ask questions. Others will hire a disability advocate or lawyer to help them file the application. For help figuring out the best way to file your disability claim, see our article on the easiest way for you to apply for disability benefits.
You can go to www.ssa.gov/disabilityonline to start your online application. You'll be asked to enter basic information including:
For a list of all the information you'll need to apply online and well as tips for applying online, see our article on applying online for Social Security disability.
If you can't finish the application in one sitting, you can save your work and come back later (but be sure to write down your application number so you can re-access your application). While you need to know a lot of information for the online disability application, it can make sense to start before you've gathered it all, since the date you begin your online application counts as your filing date. (In turn, your filing date affects the amount of disability backpay you'll receive.)
After you've completed your disability application online, an SSA claims representative will likely contact you with questions about your disability application.
If you're applying for SSI for a child, you can't complete the whole application online. But you can complete the first step online: the Child Disability Report. If you start the process by completing the Childhood Disability Report online, a Social Security representative will contact you to complete your child's application for SSI with you over the phone. You can start the Child Disability Report here.
Note: Most Social Security field offices closed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SSA expects to start reopening some field offices in April 2022.
You may be most comfortable filing a disability application by contacting the Social Security office closest to where you live and telling them you wish to schedule an appointment to apply for disability. Some applicants like to have the help of an SSA field representative to fill out the application.
If your local Social Security office is open, a representative will schedule an appointment for you to be interviewed. Social Security might conduct your interview in person at the Social Security office or over the phone. If you are scheduled for a phone interview, Social Security will mail all of the necessary paperwork to your home.
The Social Security office will determine whether your disability application will be for Social Security disability, SSI, or both.
You can call the national Social Security office at 800-772-1213 between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm, local time. If you are hard of hearing, you can call TTY 800-325-0778.
The representative you speak to will likely schedule an appointment for you to be interviewed at a future time, over the phone. Social Security will mail some paperwork to your home before the phone interview. During the phone interview, an SSA field representative will help you fill out the application.
If you're filing online, you don't need an application form, and the SSA will send you any other forms you need by mail.
If you're filing in person or over the phone (using the paper application), you'll need to file several forms, depending on whether you are applying for SSDI or SSI.
To apply for SSDI, you'll need to fill out the application for Social Security Disability Insurance, Form SSA-16-BK and Form SSA-3368-BK, Adult Disability Report. Visit the above links for information on how to fill out these paper forms.
Learn more about all of Social Security's disability forms here.
No matter how you decide to apply, you may find it helpful to read our free step-by-step guide to applying for Social Security benefits.
Updated February 24, 2022