How to Apply for Permanent Disability

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The Social Security Administration oversees two cash benefit programs for the disabled: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. SSDI is provided to those who have worked long enough to qualify for benefits. SSI is available to those who do not qualify for SSDI and who have very few assets. Both programs are only available to people who are completely disabled and are expected to remain disabled for at least a year.

Visit the Social Security Administration's website (see Resources for a link). On the front page, there is a section of buttons under the title "Select Below to Apply For"; each button will take you to the application section for a specific type of Social Security benefit.

Click on the "Disability Benefits" button.You will be asked if you wish to apply for "adult" benefits or "child" benefits. Choose adult benefits.

Download and read the Adult Disability Starter Kit materials. The kit includes a fact sheet, the Adult Disability Checklist, and the Medical and Job Worksheet for adults.

Gather and organize the items listed on the Adult Disability Checklist. These items include identifying information such as Social Security numbers for yourself and your family, along with a certified copy of your birth certificate. You will also need details of your medical and work history.

Apply for Social Security Benefits online if you have worked in the past. If you have not worked in the past, you can skip this step.

Complete the Social Security Adult Disability Report online. If you did not fill out the online Application for Social Security because you have not worked in the past, you should now contact the Social Security Administration by phone to complete the application process for SSI.

Follow up on all Social Security Administration requests for more information or additional medical examinations.


  • If you prefer to not apply for Social Security disability benefits online, you can also apply in person at a Social Security Administration office or via the telephone.