Several people recently asked which documentation they need to apply for disability. It’s true that you will need certain documents to successfully apply for disability benefits, but which ones? We’ll break it into two sections: medical evidence and other required documentation to apply for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits.
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 items. 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:
- Your original birth certificate (the SSA won’t accept a copy).
- A 15-page form called the Adult Disability Report that details your work history, illnesses, conditions, etc.
- Your military discharge papers if you served before 1968 (if applicable). You must submit original documentation for this, not a photocopy!
- Were you born in the United States? If not, you must submit original documentation that proves your lawful alien status or naturalized citizenship.
- 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 5 years or longer, then you cannot qualify for SSD benefits.
- 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.
- 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.
- A canceled check or other papers showing your current banking information, if you choose to direct-deposit your payments.
The SSA will return any original documentation you submit along with your claim once they finish reviewing your disability 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. This medical evidence 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
What Happens If I Don’t Have All These Documents When I Apply?
Now, several people 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.
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.