The Social Security Disability Interview

When you apply for SSDI or SSI disability benefits, Social Security conducts an interview in person or by phone.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law

When you file an application for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or SSI disability benefits, the local Social Security office will want to gather more information from you. A claims representative will usually call you to do one of two things:

  • set an appointment for an SSDI or SSI interview at the Social Security office, or
  • set up a time to conduct a telephone interview at a later date.

Your disability interview is a critical part of your claim because it's your first chance to prove that your medical condition is severe enough to prevent you from working. Here's what you need to know to prepare for your Social Security disability interview, including the questions you should expect.

Having an In-Person Interview at the Social Security Office

When you have an appointment for an in-person disability interview, you'll meet with a claims representative at your local Social Security office. This is an important meeting, so you'll want to arrive a few minutes early. Punctuality shows respect to the representative you're meeting.

It's okay to dress comfortably, but you should choose modest clothing that's neat and clean. You don't want your appearance to be a distraction.

What should you bring with you? Bring any medical records you have and other documents you'll need to answer the Social Security rep's questions (see below). But if possible, don't bring your children. Children can be distracting, and if you're able to care well for your children during the interview, you might give the impression that you're not really disabled.

Can I Do a Phone Interview With Social Security?

Some disability interviews are conducted by phone, rather than in person. Being able to answer questions over the phone can be a great benefit to you, especially if an in-person interview would mean making a long trip to the Social Security office.

A Social Security claims rep will contact you to schedule your phone interview for a specific date and time. You should prepare for the phone appointment and be near your phone in a quiet area at the specified date and time.

Do's and Dont's for Social Security Disability Interviews by Phone

If your Social Security interview will be conducted by phone, you'll want to prepare for it just as you would for an in-person interview. Here are some tips to help you get ready.

Social Security Phone Interview Dos:

  • Be sure your phone is fully charged or plugged in during the call. You don't want your battery to die during the call and delay your claim.
  • Be ready at least 10 minutes before your scheduled call. Missing this call will delay your claim.
  • Gather all the information you'll need before the call. You'll need to share details about your work and your medical history. (See below for a list of the questions you'll be asked.)
  • For an SSI interview, you'll need to share how much you pay for rent and other bills, so have that information ready.
  • During the call, answer all the questions truthfully. Your credibility matters. If the Social Security claims rep thinks you're not being honest, it won't help your claim.
  • Keep your answers brief and answer only the questions asked.

Social Security Phone Interview Don'ts:

  • Don't take the call in a noisy environment. Being in a quiet room helps ensure you can hear the questions you're asked and that the Social Security representative can hear your answers.
  • Don't downplay your condition. If you can't be on your feet for more than an hour because of a herniated disc, say so. This isn't the time to put on a brave face. You need to be honest and frank about your limitations.
  • Don't answer questions you aren't asked. Offering too much information can backfire. For instance, if you're applying for SSI, you don't want to give a false impression of your financial situation.

What Happens During a Disability Claim Interview?

Whether your disability interview is in person or by phone, a claims representative from the Social Security office will ask you a series of questions. You'll need to answer questions about your medical condition and other things like where you've worked in the past 15 years and what duties you performed for each job.

The interview normally takes about an hour, provided you've prepared in advance by gathering your past work and medical histories. The important thing to remember about the SSDI or SSI interview is that it's basically a fact-finding process—no decision on your claim will be made at the time of the interview.

Social Security Interview Questions

Here is the series of interview questions the Social Security claims rep will ask you, starting with your basic information and ending with your direct deposit details.

General Information

  • What's your current name and any previous names you've used?
  • What's your Social Security number?
  • What's the highest level of education you've completed?
  • What are the names and dates of birth of your spouse and any children under the age of 18?

Medical History

  • When did your medical condition become so severe that you weren't able to work anymore?
  • What doctor treats you for your disabling medical condition?
  • What's the doctor's contact information?
  • When did you start getting treatment for your disabling medical condition?
  • What kind of tests have you had (X-rays, MRIs)?
  • Have you had any emergency room visits or hospitalizations?
  • What kind of treatment have you had (therapy, steroid injections)?
  • What medications (including dosage) are you taking?

Work History

  • When was the last time you worked?
  • What job title(s) did you have during the last 15 years?
  • What were the dates of employment for those jobs?
  • What's the contact information for all your employers over the last 15 years?

Bank and Contact Details

  • What's the name of your bank, your account number, and your routing number? (Learn more about your disability payment options.)
  • Who can Social Security contact if they can't reach you? What's their contact information?

SSI Interview Questions

If you're applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security will also ask the following:

  • What's your living situation?
  • Who lives with you?
  • What sources of income do you have?
  • What sources of income does your spouse have, if you're married?
  • What's the balance of your bank account(s)?
  • Do you own any vehicles?

How Can I Prepare for the Disability Interview?

You can help your initial interview go smoothly by being prepared with the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the places you've received medical care for your disability within the past 12 months, including:

  • doctor's offices
  • hospitals, and
  • emergency rooms.

You should also have the contact information available for all past employment supervisors, including business addresses and phone numbers. In addition, you should figure out the approximate start and end dates for each job that you worked in the last 15 years. It helps to write all of this down so you have it right in front of you during the interview.

Social Security should send you a form to fill out beforehand. If you don't receive it in time, write your information out on a sheet of paper in a clear, organized fashion.

Having this information written down will allow the Social Security rep to process your information more quickly so that the field office rep can forward it to the state agency that'll decide your claim. This agency is commonly called Disability Determination Services (DDS), but the name can vary from state to state.

What Happens After the Disability Interview?

Once you've completed your disability interview, the claims rep will review your non-medical eligibility requirements, which include your:

  • age
  • employment history
  • marital status
  • citizenship
  • residency
  • Social Security coverage information, and
  • income and asset verification.

(For more information on these requirements, please see our articles about the non-medical eligibility requirements for SSDI and non-medical eligibility requirements for SSI.)

Next, the claims rep will submit your claim to a disability claims examiner at your state's DDS office who will make the initial decision on your claim. To learn more about the next steps in the determination process, see our article about what happens at DDS.

Updated April 21, 2023

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