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What To Expect If You Apply

Ready to Apply? You Need:

  • ID: Your Social Security number card and your birth or baptismal certificate
  • Doctor Info: Names, addresses, and phone numbers of the doctors, caseworkers, hospitals, and clinics that took care of you, and dates of your visits
  • Medications: Names and dosage of all the medicine you take
  • Medical Records: Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers that you already have in your possession including laboratory and test results
  • Work History (Adults): If you are filing an adult application you will need a summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did.
  • School Records (Children): If you are filing a child application (anyone under the age of 18) you will need school records, teacher information, IFSPs and IEPs.
  • Family Info: Information about your spouse and children if you have them for adults including Social Security numbers and dates of marriage and divorce and information about parents and family resources and income for a children’s application.
  • A Disability Onset Date: This is the date that your disability began impacting your ability to work. For some people this will be at birth and for others it will be later in life.

Step One: The Initial Application- How To Apply:

  • Go In Person to your local Social Security Office. Take a number, wait to be called, answer their questions. Bring everything with you to the office.
  • Call the Social Security Administration on the phone. Wait on hold (similar wait times to going in person). Answer their questions.
  • Apply online as No wait time, and applications can be saved and returned to. You will need access to a computer, a printer, and reliable internet access. Adults can apply entirely online, but at this time there is only part of the children’s application available online.
  • If you are filing an application on behalf of your child with a disability, you will want to start with the disability starter kit for children:

Step Two: Check Your Mail!

So, you have submitted your application. Now what? Well, the next thing to do is CHECK YOUR MAIL!!!

The Social Security Administration has not updated a lot of their systems since the 1970s. This means that they often rely on snail mail, fax machines, and computers that are running ancient computer programs.

You will get mail! And it is important to check and respond to it because there are often time limits. Don’t panic, you can usually get an extension (this depends on who answers the phone when you call to ask for one) but keep in mind that every extension you ask for lengthens the amount of time it takes for your application to be processed and for you to get your first check.

You will often get forms that ask questions that you feel like you have already answered. It is very important to answer them again. There are two main reasons that this happens:

  1. It may be that several different people are looking at your application and each one has their own form they want you to fill out. So even if you have answered the question before, this time the answer might be going to a different person.
  2. They are looking for consistency. If you say one thing the first time and something completely different the second time, this raises red flags for SSA. It is a good idea to keep copies of everything you send to SSA just to make sure you have answered questions consistently.

Step Three: Responding To Your Mail

Let’s go over some of the things that might show up in your mailbox. Some people might see all of these things show up in their mailbox, and some people might not see any! It is hard to predict. Pay attention: Don’t send documents to the wrong office!

Letters and Documents to Keep:

There are certain letters that will help you qualify for other programs such as housing assistance and food stamps. There are also many times in life when you will be asked for proof of your income. That is why it is so important to keep a receipt of your application and to keep a copy of your award letter.

  • Print out your confirmation page if you apply online
  • You will get a copy if you apply in person
  • If you apply over the phone you should get confirmation in the mail
  • Once you are approved or denied you will be notified. Keep this letter!

Initial Denial Letter: Don’t Panic! 

  • It is very common, if someone has applied for both SSI and SSDI that the Social Security Administration will immediately deny one or the other.
  • This Initial Denial letter is ONLY for SSDI so if this letter shows up then the SSI claim is still active and making its way through the system. On the other hand, you might get a letter similar to this that says Supplemental Security Income up at the top instead. That letter is only for SSI and your SSDI application is still active. But, if you get both letters then you know something has gone wrong.
  • It never hurts to call if you are unsure.

Missing Information Letter:

  • A missing information letter usually means that some initial documentation is still needed to process your information.
  • This could be a copy of your bank statement, a copy of trust fund documentation, deed or title to land or a vehicle, proof of legal residency or green card, immigration paperwork, etc.
  • Pay close attention to whatever is listed and call or visit the SSA office with this information

Forms to Fill Out:

  • Adult Function Report and Work History Report/ Age Specific Child Function Report: Function reports are your opportunity to tell your side of the story. Most of the documentation that the social security administration is looking at is medical records and diagnosis information, but the function report gives you an opportunity to explain how your or your child’s disability impacts day to day life. The questions are very specific and details and the most important questions are: How does your disability impact your ability to work – This, after all is their definition of disability.
  • Third Party Request for Information: A third party request for information is usually sent to professionals who work with you or your child. This is an opportunity for them to answer the question: How does the person’s disability impact their day to day functioning and their ability to hold a job.
  • Specific Disability Worksheet: Sometimes there are specific forms that ask more information about a specific diagnosis and how it impacts your life as well. This is just another opportunity for you to tell your story.
  • Clinical Examination Letters: Sometimes you might be asked to visit a specific doctor contracted with the social security office to examine you and verify that you have the disability that you claim. This is often an indication that you have not provided enough documentation of your disability. These doctors might also be looking for fraud. It is very important to show up to these appointments. They are very difficult to cancel or reschedule and if you don’t show up your application will be automatically denied.

Step Four: Wait… Wait… Wait…

You may not hear anything for months at a time. When you finally get mail you are expected to respond within 10 days.

Next: Tips and Tricks For Success

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