Please welcome this week’s guest blogger, Tim Moore, from Disability Secrets and My Disability Blog. Please see the rest of Tim’s bio at the end of his post.
Recently, the Social Security Administration added a disability application process to their online services. The SSA website offers a disability starter kit, an online disability application, and an online disability report form.
While this may seem more convenient at first glance, there are still some problems associated with the SSA internet application process. And these problems add weight to the argument that a potential claimant might consider bypassing the online system in favor of visiting a field office and applying in person.
What does that argument, or rationalization, actually entail? Well, first of all, even if you complete your disability application and disability report online, you still need to provide the Social Security Administration with signed SSA-827 medical release forms. This can be done easily in person while the online process will not direct a claimant to do this. However, more problematic is the fact that the SSA website does not currently provide a way to file an SSI (Supplemental Security Income) disability application online.
This is a significant shortcoming and a problem to say the least. Why? Because many disability cases are concurrent. In other words, many applicants who visit a social security field office to file for disability actually end up with applications taken in both the SSD and SSI programs, even though the claims are evaluated concurrently, as one (by a disability examiner at a state disability processing agency).
It goes without saying, of course, that very few claimants who visit the SSA website will have any idea as to whether their claim will be for title II social security disability benefits, title 16 SSI disability benefits, or if their paperwork will need to be filed in both programs.
Which is where the system falls short. Individuals who are entitled to SSI will have no way of actually filing a claim online and, quite importantly, having their application date protected (protected dates are important when you consider the issue of back pay and the fact that some claims have been known to sit on someone’s desk for a long time before finally being forwarded to a disability examiner for processing).
Currently, applying for disability in person at your local Social Security office remains, in the opinion of many, including myself, the best method of filing a disability application. This is because a Social Security claims representative will evaluate your potential entitlement to both SSI and Social Security disability benefits. Additionally, the claims representative will complete your application(s) and disability report, as well as make sure that you have signed your medical release forms while you are at your disability interview.
If you complete your disability interview via the phone, the claims representative will still complete your application(s) and disability report, and will also mail the medical release forms to you with a self addressed, postage-paid envelope for their return. On the other hand, if you attempt to file online, you will not be directed (as of this date) to obtain, sign, and return the necessary medical release forms that might otherwise delay your case. You might also not be aware of what you are actually entitled to apply for.
No doubt, the online disability application process will improve in the coming years. But, at this point, it has obvious deficiencies.
By contrast, when it comes to conducting the application process in person with a social security administration representative at a social security office, or over the phone with such a person, a claimant can at least assume that their program eligibility has been properly evaluated and that all the necessary paperwork has been completed.
Tim Moore is a former disability-medicaid caseworker as well as a former disability claims examiner for the social security administration’s DDS, or disability determination services. He has a a website that provides information on the federal disability benefits system at Disability Secrets and also blogs about the subject at My Disability Blog.
Cindy Speaker says
Seems like in person is the way to go for now. Online is not always more efficient.
We sent you this disability starter kit because you requested an appointment to file
for disability benefits. The enclosed letter has the date, time, and location of your
The following are answers to questions most people ask about when applying for disability
benefits. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you understand the process.
A Social Security representative will interview you and complete an application for disability
benefits and an Adult Disability Report. The interview will take place either in your local
Social Security office or by telephone. It will take at least 1 hour.
You still need to keep your scheduled appointment with the local Social Security office, so a
representative can review your information.
If you cannot do business with us online, you can complete the enclosed Medical and Job
Worksheet and have it ready for your appointment
You can also speed things up by bringing to your office appointment the information listed
on the enclosed checklist. If you have an appointment by telephone, the representative may
ask you to provide any required checklist items.
By law, Social Security has a very strict definition of disability. To be found disabled:
• You must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical condition(s);
• Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year, or be
expected to result in your death.
No. Social Security disability laws are different from most other programs. For example,
Social Security does not pay benefits for partial disability.
Generally, it takes about 3 to 5 months to get a decision. However, the exact time depends on
how long it takes to get your medical records and any other evidence needed to make
We send your application to a state agency that makes disability decisions. The state has
medical and vocational experts who will contact your doctors and other places where you
received treatment to get your medical records.
The state agency may send you forms to complete or ask you to have an examination or
medical test. If the state does request an examination, make sure you keep the appointment.
You will not have to pay for any examination or test you are sent for, by the state agency.
Social Security pays disability benefits under two programs:
• Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for insured workers, their disabled surviving
spouses, and children (disabled before age 22) of disabled, retired, or deceased workers.
• Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for people with little or no income and resources.
Yes. Social Security protects the privacy of each individual we serve. As a Federal agency,
we are required by the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 522a) to protect the information we get
You are encouraged to bring a friend or relative to translate for you. We provide free
interpreter services to help you conduct your Social Security business. However, we need
advanced notice to make arrangements with the translator.
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs provide assistance to people with disabilities. This page provides detailed information to help you understand what to expect from Social Security during the application process.
Before you apply, please review the basics to make sure you understand the process. Also, gather the information and documents you’ll need to complete an application.
The SSDI program pays benefits to you and certain family members if you are “insured.” This means that you worked long enough – and recently enough – and paid Social Security taxes on your earnings. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to adults and children with disabilities who have limited income and resources.
While these two programs are different, the medical requirements are the same. If you meet the non-medical requirements, monthly benefits are paid if you have a medical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death.
Whether you apply online, by phone, or in person, the disability benefits application process follows these general steps:
You gather the information and documents you need to apply. We recommend you print and review the Adult Disability Checklist. It will help you gather the information you need to complete the application.
You complete and submit your application.
We review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for disability benefits.
We check whether you worked enough years to qualify.
We evaluate any current work activities.
We process your application and forward your case to the Disability Determination Services office in your state.
This State agency makes the disability determination decision.
You’ll receive a letter in the mail with our decision. If you included information about other family members when you applied, we’ll let you know if they may be able to receive benefits on your record.
Name, address, and phone number of someone we can contact who knows about your medical conditions and can help with your application.
Detailed information about your medical illnesses, injuries, or conditions:
Names, addresses, phone numbers, patient ID numbers, and dates of treatment for all doctors, hospitals, and clinics.
Names of medicines you are taking and who prescribed them.
Names and dates of medical tests you have had and who ordered them.
The amount of money earned last year and this year.
The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year.
The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service you had before 1968.
A list of the jobs (up to 5) that you had in the 15 years before you became unable to work and the dates you worked at those jobs.
Information about any workers’ compensation, black lung, and/or similar benefits you filed, or intend to file for. These benefits can:
Be temporary or permanent.
Include annuities and lump sum payments that you received in the past.
Be paid by your employer or your employer’s insurance carrier, private agencies, or Federal, State, or other government or public agencies
Black Lung Benefits.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation.
Civil Service (Disability) Retirement.
Federal Employees’ Retirement.
Federal Employees’ Compensation.
State or local government disability insurance benefits.
Disability benefits from the military (This includes military retirement pensions based on disability but not Veterans’ Administration (VA) benefits.)
Along with the information listed above, we may ask you to provide documents to show that you are eligible, such as:
Birth certificate or other proof of birth.
Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States.
U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968.
W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year.
You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. Follow these easy steps to apply online for disability:
To start your application, go to our Apply for Benefits page, and read and agree to the Terms of Service. Click “Next.”
On that page, review the “Getting Ready” section to make sure you have the information you need to apply.