If your disabling condition makes it hard for you to drive or arrange transportation to your local Social Security office, we have some good news. You can complete and submit your application for Social Security disability benefits from your own home computer. Get started at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
The application process involves determining 1) whether you have sufficient work to be eligible for Social Security; 2) the severity of your medical condition; and 3) your ability to work. Because we carefully review so many cases — more than three million each year — it can take us three to five months to determine whether you are eligible to receive benefits.
The amount of time it takes to make a decision on your application can vary depending on a number of factors, such as:
the nature of your disability; how quickly we obtain medical evidence from your doctors, hospitals, or other medical sources; and whether we need to send you for a medical examination in order to obtain evidence to support your claim.
We do a number of things to speed up the process when we can. For example, our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast-track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). There are 165 different types of disabilities that qualify for this expedited decision, and that list continues to expand. Learn more about Compassionate Allowances at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about Quick Disability Determinations at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm.
There are things you can do to help speed up the decision process too. The more information you provide up front, the less time it will take us to obtain the evidence we need — and the faster we can process your application. The types of information we need include:
• medical records or documentation you have; we can make copies of your records and return your originals;
• the names, addresses, and phone numbers for any doctors, hospitals, medical facilities, treatment centers, or providers related to your disabling condition; and
• names, addresses, and phone numbers for recent employers and the dates worked for each employer.
We also ask you to sign release forms that give us permission to obtain the information needed from third parties to make a decision on your claim.
The best place to start is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability. Select “Disability Starter Kits” in the left column. There, you’ll find important information to help you with your application.
If you’re not able to work due to a disability, apply online for Social Security disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
— Brenda Brown is a Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Fayetteville, N.C.