What Paperwork Do I Need To Apply For Social Security Disability? 8 Necessary Disability Forms & Docs

by Lori Polemenakos   ·  4 weeks ago  
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Several people recently asked what disability paperwork they need to apply for benefits. It’s true that you will need certain forms and documents to successfully apply for disability benefits, but which ones? We’ll break it into three sections: medical evidence, personal records, and other required documentation to apply for Social Security disability benefits (SSD).

Here’s a look into what paperwork you need in order to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

Personal Identification Documents Needed to Apply for SSD Benefits

We’ll start with the personally identifying documents the Social Security Administration needs to approve your disability benefits application. Many of these documents you’ll likely already have on hand, making them easier to gather. Here are some of documents you should have on hand:

  1. Your original birth certificate (the SSA won’t accept a copy).
  2. Were you born in the United States? If not, you must submit original documentation that proves your lawful alien status or naturalized citizenship.
  3. Original documentation relating to your family’s births, marriages, deaths or divorces. This includes your children’s birth certificates, your marriage license, divorce decree and any death certificates (if applicable). Remember: The SSA won’t accept copies of these, so be sure to submit your original documentation.
  4. A canceled check or other papers showing your current banking information, if you choose to use direct deposit for your your payments.

Required Documentation All SSD Applicants Must Provide to Qualify

First, it’s important to note that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will only accept originals for certain documents needed to secure disability benefits. We’ve noted in our documentation list below which things you can submit copies for vs. original versions only. Now, let’s start with the standard, non-medical documentation you need to file along with your disability claim:

  1. A 15-page form called the Adult Disability Report that details your work history, illnesses, conditions, etc.
  2. Your military discharge papers if you served before 1968 (if applicable). You must submit original documentation for this, not a photocopy!
  3. Copies of your most recent W-2 forms, self-employed income tax returns, 1099s, etc. for the past year. Note: If you haven’t worked in more than 5 years prior to the onset of your disability, you may not quality for some types of disability benefits.
  4. If applicable, copies of your workers’ compensation award letters, settlement agreements, pay stubs or other related documentation. Basically, if you got a payment from anything other than a paycheck in the past year, the SSA needs to see that documentation.

The SSA will return any original documentation you submit along with your claim once they finish reviewing your disability claim application.

Medical Evidence You Need to Apply for Disability Benefits

In addition to the above, you need to submit any relevant documentation about your medical condition within the past year. These medical records should include things such as:

  • X-rays, MRI or CT scans, if applicable
  • Lab test dates and results, if applicable
  • Doctor’s notes showing your diagnosis date, current treatments and progress, if applicable
  • A complete list of your current prescriptions, dosages and frequency, along with any side effects
  • Hospitalization, ER visits, surgery dates and receipts, if applicable
  • Physical therapy and/or vocational rehab documentation, if applicable
  • Documentation showing how often you saw your doctor to treat your condition and/or symptoms within the last year

The more robust your medical records and medical history report is at documenting your disability, the more likely you are to receive approval from the Social Security Administration for disability benefits.

Additional Documentation for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

In addition to providing the above disability paperwork when you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you will also need to show that you have a sufficient work history. SSDI benefits are only awarded to individuals who have paid into the Social Security system.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you’ll need to have at least 40 work credits, 20 of which having been earned in the last 10 years. One work credit is earned every three months of employment where you paid Social Security taxes. This means you earn 4 credits for every year you’re employed and paying taxes.

For most people, this means having 10 years of work history, 5 of which have to have been earned in the past 10 years.

However, younger SSDI applicants may still qualify, as the required work history for individuals younger than 31 are more lenient.

  • Before age 24: You need 6 credits (1.5 years) earned in the 3-year period prior to your disability.
  • Age 24 to 30: You need credits equaling half the time between age 21 and the time your disability began. For example, if you’re 27, you have 6 years since you turned 21, and you need 12 credits (or 3 years worth) earned in that period.
  • At age 31, you generally need at least 20 credits.

The number of work credits needed varies by age and type of disability, so be sure to check the SSA website or consult with a disability attorney to understand your unique requirements.

How to Find Your Work Credits and Payment Amount

To check your work credit status, you can go online to the Social Security website and create or sign into your account. From there, visit the “Eligibility and Earnings” page, where your work history report is located. This page will list the number of work credits you’ve earned, as well as your earnings history, which is used to calculate the total payment you’ll receive from your SSDI benefits.

Additional Documentation for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI benefits differ from SSDI benefits because, unlike SSDI, SSI benefits are available to everyone regardless of work history. Because Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is more open, you won’t need any additional disability paperwork beyond what we listed above. However, as a tradeoff, SSI benefits usually pay less, so you may want to apply for both forms of Social Security disability benefits if you qualify for both.

What Happens If I Don’t Have All These Documents When I Apply?

If you don’t have all of the documents on hand when you apply for disability benefits, don’t panic, and DON’T put off the application process. If you have missing documents, your disability attorney or the Social Security Administration can help you get them. The SSD benefits timeline can span more than a year, and you want to get into the queue as quickly as possible so there aren’t any unnecessary delays in securing your benefits.

What Happens if I Don’t Have Medical Proof of My Disability?

Now, several people have asked if they could apply for disability if they don’t have any recent medical documentation. The fact is, if you haven’t seen a doctor in several years, it will count against you. First, the SSA will require you to come in for an appointment with a Disability Determination Services (DDS) doctor. This doctor will then conduct what’s called a “consultative exam.” This DDS doctor prepares a report that either confirms your disability or suggests you can still work, despite your condition. With no recent medical evidence or documentation from regular doctor’s treatments, you may not get approved for disability benefits.

However, if your condition is severe enough, your consultative exam might be all you need. For example: If you were born blind, no doctor can likely restore your sight. So, no recent doctor’s visits and lack of documentation won’t count against you. But if you file a claim for cancer, you almost certainly saw an oncologist within the last year.

Let a Disability Attorney Help Prepare Your Documentation

Enlisting the assistance of a disability attorney to prepare the disability paperwork you need to apply for social security disability benefits can make it significantly easier to qualify.

By entrusting the creation of your disability application to a skilled professional, you can significantly increase your chances of a successful outcome, providing you with the support and resources you need during challenging times. Don’t hesitate to seek the guidance of a disability attorney to help advocate for your rights and secure the disability benefits you need.

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.