How to navigate filing a social security disability claim

Applying and getting approved for Social Security disability benefits can be a lengthy and challenging process. Many individuals with valid disability claims have to go through multiple appeals, which can drag on for years, before obtaining benefits. With only about 30% of disability applications approved at the initial stage, it is important to get things in line early and complete your application in such a way that your chances of success are maximized. Applying too soon is one of the most common errors.


Before you apply for disability benefits

Before you file your initial claim for Social Security disability benefits, it is a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor about whether you are truly disabled. If your doctor agrees that you are a candidate for disability benefits, their support will help your case. Remember that you may have multiple doctors who give restrictions for different disabilities. Finding out your limitations from each of them is important.


Completing the initial application for disability benefits

When you are ready to file your initial application, you can do so online at the Social Security Administration’s website. You can also call the SSA or visit a local office to complete the application in person. You can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), whichever applies to you, or both simultaneously.

The initial application largely concerns your medical conditions and your work history. When completing the application, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Understand the questions: Read every question carefully and make sure your response answers the question appropriately. If you have trouble understanding a question on the application, ask a representative for clarification.
  • Be thorough: Answer every question completely, especially when listing medical providers and work history. Missing information on your application can delay the process or lead to an initial rejection.
  • Ask for help: Applying for disability benefits can be overwhelming- don’t be afraid to ask for help from a trusted friend or family member. You can also ask a Social Security disability attorney to provide guidance.

After the initial application

It typically takes the SSA about three to six months to approve or deny an initial disability claim. During that time, you should keep the SSA updated on your condition by submitting records of any significant medical changes, if they occur.

As mentioned above, most disability applications are denied at the initial stage, even strong cases. If you receive a denial letter, you can then request a hearing in front of a judge. This request must be done within 60 days from the date of denial.

Since there are multiple opportunities to appeal the denial of disability benefits, you should not despair at an initial rejection. However, know that the wait time is roughly 2 years for a hearing. Nonetheless, as you move from one stage to the next, it becomes increasingly important to have a knowledgeable professional to present your case in the best light possible.


Our Social Security disability attorneys routinely help claimants navigate the complex disability claims system successfully. Whichever stage of the SSDI or SSI application process you are at, consider contacting our office to find out how we can help.

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