Adults who can no longer work because of a physical or mental health condition can apply for Social Security disability insurance. This program assists those with disabilities that will last at least 12 months.
Explore the application process before seeking benefits through the SSDI program.
Starting your application
You can apply for SSDI benefits online. If you prefer, you can also apply by phone or at the Social Security office in your area.
In addition to identifying information, you must provide details about your work history and medical condition. This includes:
- A full medical record, including the dates of treatments and a list of prescription medications
- Contact information for your health care providers
- A copy of your Social Security statement
- Contact information for your most recent employer
- A 15-year work history
- Details about any military history
- Information about workers’ compensation or other disability payments
Awaiting a decision
The Social Security Administration will provide an electronic or postal mail receipt after receiving your application. They may also contact you to request additional details or documents. After processing your full application, they will send a decision through postal mail.
To qualify for SSDI, you must provide sufficient proof of your disabling medical condition and your inability to work from your health care providers. You also must have enough work credits to cover your disability payments, which can be a challenge for those who became disabled after spending only a few years in the workforce.
In general, the SSA approves or denies an SSDI application within three to five months. If you receive a denial, you have the right to start the appeal process. This process constitutes four levels of appeal:
- Reconsideration by an agent who did not participate in the first decision
- Hearing before an administrative law judge who is new to your case
- Appeals council review
- Review in federal court
You may decide to have an attorney represent you throughout the application and appeals process.