How to Apply for SSI: 7 Tips for Submitting a Successful SSI Application

by Shay Fleming   ·  1 month ago  
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Applying for vital income when you’re disabled can feel like another source of pain, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve pulled together the information you need to apply for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Applying for SSI: Key Takeaways

  • Understand the difference between SSI and SSDI to determine your eligibility
  • Review application requirements, such as income limits and
  • Collect the documentation you need to apply
  • Apply online, by phone or in person
  • Avoid mistakes that slow down the process or prompt a denial
  • Increase your chances of first-time approval by hiring a disability lawyer

What is Supplemental Security Income?

SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is a disability program sponsored by the Social Security Administration (SSA), designed to provide financial assistance to low-income seniors and disabled individuals. SSI disability payments help U.S. citizens and nationals who:

  • Are 65 and older
  • Are a younger person with a visual impairment or another qualifying disability
  • Haven’t worked in at least 5 years
  • Earn less than $1,550 from substantial gainful activity; $2,590 for people with blindness
  • Live in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands

Recipients receive a maximum of $943 a month for individuals and $1,415 for married couples. SSI eligibility may qualify you other support like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) financial assistance to buy food or more affordable health insurance through Medicaid. Your payments from these programs may be lower if you also qualify for workers compensation or VA benefits.

GOOD TO KNOW: If you don’t meet these criteria, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance.

SSI Eligibility Requirements

When you apply for supplemental security income you must show that you also meet the disability criteria required start getting an SSI check.

How Does the SSA Define Disability?

The SSA defines a disability as any condition that:

  • Has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months
  • Is expected to lead to death.

GOOD TO KNOW: For applicants under 18, a disability also includes physical or mental impairments that cause “marked and severe” functional limitations.

The SSA defines blindness as “central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with best correction, or a limitation in the field of vision in the better eye so that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle of 20 degrees or less.”

GOOD TO KNOW: The duration requirement doesn’t apply to blindness or serious visual impairment.

Learn more about how to qualify for SSI.

What Documents Do You Need for Your SSI Application?

You need a lot of information and documentation to complete the SSI application form. Here’s a breakdown.

General Information

These documents establish whether or not you meet SSI age, residency and income requirements:

  • Age verification (date and place of birth)
  • Citizenship or immigration status record
  • Mailing address, telephone number, and email address (optional)
  • Proof of living arrangements
  • Social Security Number
  • Verification of assets and resources (bank accounts, property, etc.)
  • Work and income history

GOOD TO KNOW: If someone’s helping you apply, it’s important to their full name name, phone number and email address available — even if it’s a your lawyer.

Health and Medical Information

You also have to provide medical evidence that shows you’re too disabled to work and take care of yourself without support:

Medical records

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

Evaluations and statements

  • Assessments of your illness, injury or condition
  • Conclusions from medical tests and assessments
  • Date symptoms and disability started
  • How your daily living activities are limited
  • Insight on ability to do the physical and cognitive tasks related to your job
  • Treatments received

FACT: Managing all the documentation required for an application for supplemental security income can be stressful and confusing. That’s a good reason to request a free consultation from a local disability attorney who knows how the ropes.

How to Apply for SSI Disability Benefits

Wondering “How can I sign up for SSI?” We’ve got the answer! There are three ways to apply: online, over the phone, and in-person at an SSA office.

Applying for SSI Online

Hands down the fastest and easiest way to apply for SSI is the SSA application online portal.

The site has easy-to-follow prompts to help you provide the SSA with the information it needs to schedule an appointment. The whole process takes about 10 minutes. If your request is successful, you’ll get an appointment notice including the date and time with a week or two.

GOOD TO KNOW: In some cases, an SSA representative may call to schedule the appointment. They will not ask you for payment or account numbers, and individuals who do so may be trying to enact SSD fraud.

Applying for SSI Over the Phone

If you don’t want to use the online option, or you get confused and want to apply another way, call the SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY: 800-325-0778). Representatives are available every week day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in your local time. You can also use these numbers to schedule an in-person appointment at your local SSA office.

GOOD TO KNOW: Phone lines are busiest during the first week of the month and Wednesday through Friday. Wait times are shorter between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time.

Applying for SSI In Person

Applying in person is the most time-consuming way to apply for supplemental security income. Schedule an appointment by calling your local SSA office. Find your local office and contact number using the SSA Office Locator. If you can’t find your office, you can make an appointment by calling 800-772-1213 (TTY: 800-325-0778). Offices are busiest on Mondays, the first week of the month and mornings after Federal holidays.

GOOD TO KNOW: Don’t go to your local SSA office without an appointment! They might not be able to help you and will schedule you for an appoint on another day.

6 Tips for a Successful SSI Application

There are a few things you can do to make your application more successful and streamline the entire process.

#1. Apply for SSI as soon as you can

To get all the benefits you’re entitled to, apply as soon as you can because there’s a five-month waiting period from the established onset date (generally, the day you stopped working because of the disability). Get more details on the SSI benefits timeline.

#2. Verify your SSI eligibility

The SSA recommends taking a look at SSI the eligibility requirements before you complete the SSI application form. If you have questions, call 800-772-1213 (TTY:800-325-0778). It’s also a good idea to download the SSA’s Disability Starter Kit.

#3. Set up your mySocialSecurity account

Signing up for a free mySocialSecurity account gives you easy and secure online access to your Social Security data, including disability application status. This means you don’t have to call the SSA for most things.

#4. Gather all the information you need first

The process will go smoother and faster if you invest time upfront to get all the documentation you need together. Download this handy checklist from the SSA.

#5. Check your work

FACT: The SSA denies 38% of applicants for technical errors like leaving a required field blank or not providing sufficient documentation. For this reason alone, it makes sense to work with someone familiar with the forms.

#6. Get help applying for SSI

  • Case workers at your hospitals and doctor’s office
  • Local or state disability rights organizations
  • Disability attorneys

Should You Hire a Disability Lawyer?

FACT: You’re nearly 3x more likely to get benefits when an attorney files your paperwork, according to the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration.

Working with a disability lawyer can take a lot of the worry out of applying for SSI. They can pull together the documentation and ensure the forms are filled out correctly. That gives you more time to focus on your health. See how to prepare for your consultation.

GOOD TO KNOW: Social Security attorneys work on contingency, which means you pay nothing to get started. If you’re approved for SSI benefits, you only pay a one-time fee. Find out more about how disability benefits attorneys charge.

Are you ready to see if you qualify? Click here to get a FREE, no-obligation consultation before starting your claim.

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Shay Fleming is the SEO Content Manager at LeadingResponse. A proud graduate of Texas State University, she has been based in Austin since 2016, where she lives with her dog. Shay has contributed extensively to various domains, writing and publishing articles about real estate, investing, disability, and urban living.