The first step to getting Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits is to file an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). There are four ways you can apply for benefits:
Read on to learn how to complete an application for Social Security disability using each of the methods above so you can decide which will work best for you.
Most adults can file a disability application online at the Social Security website. (Here are some tips for filling out the online application.) Applying online has many benefits, including the following:
Social Security now allows applicants to start online applications for both SSDI and adult SSI benefits. Previously, SSI applicants could file online only if they were also applying for SSDI and had never been married.
Now, you can start your SSDI or SSI application online if you:
You can complete the SSDI application process online. But if you're applying for SSI benefits, you can only submit some basic information to get your application started online. Then Social Security will contact you to set up an appointment to finish the process.
Applying online has many benefits. But it might not be your best option if you need help with your application. When you apply for Social Security disability online, there's no face-to-face communication and no opportunity to ask questions.
You can apply for SSDI or SSI by telephone by contacting Social Security at 800-772-1213 between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you're deaf or hard of hearing, you can contact Social Security at Social Security's TTY number, 800-325-0778, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
If you choose to complete your application over the phone, you'll likely face long wait times. But once you get through, you'll speak with a Social Security representative, and you can ask questions.
If you need some assistance completing your SSDI or SSI application paperwork, you can apply for disability benefits in person. You don't need an appointment to get in-person services at your local Social Security office, but not having one can mean:
You should contact your local Social Security office in advance to schedule an in-person interview to apply for disability benefits.
The easiest way to complete your application for Social Security disability benefits may be to work with a lawyer or advocate who already knows Social Security's rules and regulations. A representative can:
Disability attorneys and nonlawyer advocates know how to present your claim to Social Security in the way that's most likely to result in benefits being approved for you.
For more information, see our article about how a disability lawyer can help you get your Social Security disability benefits.
To learn more about the Social Security disability application process, including some steps you should take before you apply, see our article about filing for Social Security disability.
Or, if you're a book person, get a copy of Nolo's Guide to Social Security Disability, by former SSA medical consultant and doctor David Morton. The book explains how to fill out the various forms required to apply for SSDI and SSI and the documentation you'll need.
Updated April 14, 2023