What's the Best Way to Apply for Social Security Disability or SSI?

Question

I have chronic asthma, diabetes, and back pain and can no longer do my job. How should I apply for disability? I want to take the quickest, easiest way to get benefits.

Answer

There are currently three methods available to potential disability applicants:

  • filing for disability online through the SSA site: www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/
  • calling the Social Security office at 800-772-1213 to set up an appointment to apply, and
  • walking into the local Social Security office without an appointment.

Any adult can apply online for SSDI, but many people can't apply online for SSI. Only adults who have never been married, are disabled rather than blind, have never applied for SSI before, and are also applying for SSDI can apply online.

    To get things started and apply for disability benefits, calling ahead to set up an appointment is the best option for many people. Whether you call or walk in to an office, you will usually be given an appointment to be interviewed at a later date and time; therefore, calling ahead to apply will generally be less frustrating. (Walk-in visits to the Social Security office can mean hours of waiting before one is seen.) After an appointment to apply for disability benefits has been made, you will either be interviewed in person at the local office, or, sometimes more conveniently, over the phone.

    Applying online can be very convenient, but for those who need help with their application, it leaves out face-to-face communication and the opportunity to ask questions. Applicants who need basic assistance in completing their paperwork are encouraged to apply in person. However, if you are able to use online applications easily and are able to educate yourself about the disability process, you may feel comfortable applying online. To learn how to fill out the various forms required to apply for Social Security or SSI disability, you may want to get a copy of Nolo's Guide to Social Security Disability, by former SSA medical consultant David Morton.

    Learn more about Filing for Social Security Disability.

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