If you find yourself in the unenviable position of being unable to work because of a chronic illness or injury, help is available. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to qualified applicants. According to the Social Security Administration, the application for benefits takes less than an hour to complete, and it can be done online, by phone or at any Social Security Administration office.
Evaluate your situation to determine if you're likely to qualify for benefits. In 2010 you must earn less than $1,000 per month and suffer from a severe condition that interferes with work and prevents you from doing work you did previously or adapting to a new job.
Discuss your condition and your work situation with your physician. She'll submit information about your condition and its effects on your ability to work and maintain the lifestyle you enjoyed before your illness. Rule out other options that might enable you to work, like alternative treatments, physical therapy and lifestyle changes.
Gather the information you'll need for your application. That includes military discharge, if applicable; W-2 and 1099 forms, plus schedules C and CE if you're self-employed; Social Security numbers for you, your spouse and your minor children; bank account and routing number if you'll receive your benefits via direct deposit; contact information for a reference who is familiar enough with your condition to help you with your claim; contact information for all the physicians and medical facilities where you've received treatment, and your patient ID numbers for each; a list of the medications you take and the prescribing physicians; a list of the medical tests you've undergone, the dates they were ordered and the names of the prescribing physicians; a list of your last five jobs, with the dates you worked and the type of work you did; and information about insurance or workers' compensation claims, including the contact information for the company and claim numbers, if you have them.
Complete an Application for Benefits. Fill out the application online, over the phone (see Resources) or at your local Social Security office.
Fill out the Adult Disability Report that accompanies the application to provide information about your medical and job histories.
Complete the Authorization to Disclose Information and mail or hand-deliver it to a Social Security Administration office. The form authorizes the exchange of your personal information for the purpose of processing your Application for Benefits.
Include all the conditions from which you suffer on your application to increase your chance of being approved on the first try. Fibromyalgia patients, for example, are often approved for coexisting conditions like depression or migraines.
Consider hiring an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability cases if your benefits aren't approved on the first try. You don't have to pay up front. He'll take a percentage of your retroactive award as his fee.
Conditions that don't appear on the SSA's severe-condition list are still eligible for benefits, but you may be turned down one or more times. Make sure your condition and its effects on your ability to work are meticulously documented.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images