Question: I have several medical conditions that are chronic. Over the years, the symptoms have increased. My doctor is concerned that my job is making my conditions worse. After taking two different leaves of absence, he has suggested that I stop working altogether and apply for Social Security Disability benefits. What can I expect from the application process?
Answer: From the time we get our first job, until we stop working, we pay a portion of our earnings into the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) fund. The first hurdle to applying for benefits is making sure that you qualify. Simply paying into the fund does not guarantee qualification. In the majority of circumstances, you must have worked 40 quarters (ten years) before you can qualify for SSDI. In addition, you must have a condition that keeps you from working for at least a year.
If you meet those two criteria, you can apply for benefits over the internet, on the phone or in person. Your application will be taken and at that time you will be told what your benefits will be if your application is approved. Your benefits are based on your overall lifetime earnings, so the amount received varies from person to person.
After your application is complete, you will receive a very lengthy questionnaire to fill out. It is imperative that you fill it out as completely as possible. Without detailed information from you, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may deny your claim. Next, you will be asked to submit medical records that support your disability. If the records are not as complete as possible, the SSA may require you to visit one of their doctors for an examination.
Once the records and questionnaire are reviewed, the SSA will make a determination, and will either grant or deny your application. If you are denied disability benefits, there are a series of appeals available to you to have your application considered further. An SSDI attorney can help you with appeals if they are necessary.