By Robert Simons
Have you been thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits, but you are unable to visit a Social Security office to complete the interview? Or perhaps your disabling condition makes it difficult to visit a Social Security office. We have good news: you can complete your application for Social Security disability benefits from the convenience of your home. 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 you, your doctors, hospitals, or other medical sources; and
- whether we need to send you for a medical examination to obtain evidence to support your claim.
We have several important initiatives to speed up the process. For example, our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast-track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities. Two hundred different types of disabilities qualify for this expedited decision, and the list continues to expand. Since Compassionate Allowances began in 2008, the agency has fast-tracked more than 250,000 disability applications, getting benefits to people in a matter of days instead of months. 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 make a decision on 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 that may have information related to your disabling condition;
- the names, addresses, and phone numbers for recent employers and the dates you worked for each employer; and
- your federal tax return for the past year.
If you're not able to work due to a disability and getting to an office is troublesome, don't worry. You can apply online for Social Security disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.