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Social Security Disability Benefits: The Basics

The federal Social Security Administration administers two programs for disabled people. Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is provided to people who have paid the payroll taxes that fund the program. Supplemental Security income is a need-based program (SSD).

  • The Social Security Disability (SSD) program pays benefits to disabled people who have worked long enough (generally 5 of the last 10 years) and paid Social Security taxes.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is awarded to disabled adults and children with limited resources
  • The requirements are the same under both programs for most people.
  • You file separate applications for each of these programs.

STEPS OF THE APPLICATION & APPEALS PROCESS:

1. File your application. There are two parts to your application: the Application for Disability Benefits Insurance and the Disability Report.

You can file:

  • In person at your local SSA office. Call 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment.
  • By mail. Call 1-800-772-1213 to order materials or stop by your local SSA office. You can find the location online or in the phone book.
  • By phone. Call 1-800-772-1213.
  • On the Internet. To complete your application, go to: http://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/
  • To complete the Disability Report, go to: http://www.ssa.gov/disability/3368/steps.htm

If you use the option to file on the Internet you can stop and save your application at any time and return to it later. This is a great help if you need to search for any of the information asked for or need to pace yourself because of your illness or other time constraints.

2. A Claims Representative at your local SSA field office assesses the non-medical aspects of your claim (employment status, assets, income, etc.).

3. A Disability Examiner at the disability determination agency in your state works with a doctor to make an initial determination on your application. The Disability Examiner will read your Disability Report to become familiar with your case and request medical records from your care providers based on the medical information you have provided. You may be awarded benefits at this stage. If so, you are finished with the process. If not, you’ll need to keep following these steps.

4. Request reconsideration of your case by another Disability Examiner. (In most states. Some states have done away with this step.) You may be awarded benefits at this stage. If so, you are finished with the process. If not, you’ll need to keep following these steps. (Unfortunately, you are statistically unlikely to be awarded benefits at this stage.)

5. Request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who works for the Social Security Administration. You may be awarded benefits at this stage. If so, you are finished with the process. If not, you’ll need to keep following these steps.

6. Appeal the ALJ decision to the Appeals Council. You may be awarded benefits at this stage. If so, you are finished with the process. If not, you’ll need to keep following these steps.

7. Appeal the Appeals Council decision to federal district court. (These appeals can continue all the way to the United States Supreme Court). If you have reached this point it is absolutely imperative that you retain the services of an attorney if you have not already done so. Litigation is complicated and you deserve the services of an expert who can advocate for your interests and guide you through the intricacies of the process.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Leann Quijote
    8 years ago

    Does getting money assistance from Social Security Disability take away from the Social Security benefits that you have paid into over the course of employment that you should recieve in your 60s? I need insurance comparisons help!

  • Vickie Warren-Kutchmark
    8 years ago

    I never knew you could get SSI for migraines…..I been getting these horrible things for 30 years+. And my kids get them too…sad!

  • Anna Hendrix Warren
    8 years ago

    Be prepared for it to take a while to go through this process! I get severe, debilitating migraines for 1 or 2 days a week and finally went out on long term disability with my employer. They required me to apply for SSD. It took 6 years for SSA to approve my disability claim. I would have been in a world of hurt financially had I not had the private disability benefits during the interim!

  • Diana-Lee author
    9 years ago

    Quite a marathon for you. I’m glad you were eventually able to get the assistance you need. Thanks for your comment, hope!

  • hope
    9 years ago

    Having gone through the process my experience was: l denial on inital self representation. 1 denial with attorney representation. Disability awarded on appeal in court appearance and judge decision with attorney. Entire process took over two years.

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