Option 1: Go to the Local Social Security Office
Your first option is to go to your local Social Security Administration ("SSA") office and tell them you want to apply for Social Security Disability. If you are not sure where your local Social Security office is, see the link at the bottom of this article for their office locator. Read the "5 TIPS" section below for some advice on what to do when you make your application. If you are not able to go to an SSA office or simply don't want to wait in line, look at Options 2 or 3 below.
Option 2: Call the Social Security Administration
If you don't want to visit a Social Security office, you can call Social Security toll free at (800) 772-1213. Typically, they will schedule a time when someone can call you back to take your application. Read the "5 TIPS" section below for some advice on what to do when you make your application. If you don't want to wait on hold at SSA's 800 number, look at Option 3 below.
Option 3: Go On-Line to Social Security's Website
If you don't want to go to a Social Security office and you don't want to wait on hold calling Social Security's 800 phone number, then apply online at http://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/adult.htm (you can click on the link at the bottom of this page). There, you will have to fill out an Application and another form called Adult Disability and Work History Report. You can start and stop your application, and do it over a few days. This is by far the most flexible option. Read the "5 TIPS" section below for some advice on what to do when you make your application.
Follow the 5 Tips below to Increase Your Chances of Winning
These tips will not guarantee that you win your claim, but they will help you make your case better.
TIP 1: Explain How Your Illness or Injury Impacts Your Abilities
Tell Social Security about how limited you are with sitting, standing, walking, using your arms, fingering, feeling, concentrating, interacting with others, etc. Be specific and use examples of how you are limited.
TIP 2: NEVER Speak to SSA in Absolutes
That means don't say things like "I can't sit." That means you can never sit. Most people can sit sometimes, and you do not sound believable when you use very broad statements to describe your limitations. Remember, you don't have to prove you are in a coma to win. Instead, explain how your sitting is limited. For example, someone with bad back pain might say "I can only sit for 15 minutes, then I have to change positions because it feels like someone is shoving an ice pick in my back."
TIP 3: Tell SSA about Every One of Your Limitations
Start at your hair and go to your toenails. Tell them about every problem you have that impacts your ability to work.
TIP 4: SSA Cares about Physical and Mental Limitations
Don't forget to talk about your physical AND mental limitations. If you have depression or anxiety, tell SSA about it, especially any problems you have with concentration, focus, pace, and memory.
TIP 5: See Your Doctor
You MUST treat with doctors for EACH of your problems. If you are not treating with doctors, you will likely lose your claim. Don't have the money to afford a doctor? Borrow it. No one willing to lend money? Call your local social services office or health department and see if they offer free or low cost health care. If you don't find a way to get doctor treatment, you probably will not win.
BONUS TIP: Hire An Attorney....If You are Denied
You probably do not need an attorney to file your application. However, if you are denied, you should hire an attorney immediately. You only have 60 days to apply, so do not wait a month to hire an attorney after you get a denial letter. Social Security's own statistics show that people who appear at hearings before Administrative Law Judges win MUCH more than those who do not hire an attorney.