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Filing A Social Security Disability Application: Basics To Applying for SSDI

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What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

Social Security Disability Insurance is an insurance policy that you’ve paid into via your FICA taxes for all the years you worked. The monetary support you receive through Social Security disability benefits continues until you’re able to return to work on a regular basis or until retirement age, when it automatically converts to retirement benefits.

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Basics About Getting SSDI Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews your work and medical history to determine if you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Do I Qualify for Benefits?

  • Have a medical condition, illness or injury that prevents you from working for 12 months or is terminal.
  • Meet the definition of disabled under SSA rules.
  • Have worked 5 of the last 10 years in jobs where you paid FICA taxes.
  • Are at least 21 and have not reached full retirement age.
Allsup illustration of a man and woman looking at a SSDI checklist.

How Do I Claim SSDI?

To get Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you must apply to the SSA. The initial application and the detailed information you provide are critical to getting benefits early. You can complete the Social Security Disability application on your own, or have a disability representative like Allsup fill it out for you.

The SSA reviews applications to determine whether you qualify for monthly Social Security benefit payments. This sounds simple, but you must have medical evidence and documentation to prove you meet the legal definition of disabled, and carefully complete the forms because it’s possible to make simple mistakes that could lead to denial.

The year you were born

For SSDI, you must be younger than your full Social Security retirement age.


Your average annual income

Enter your average for the last 10 years, up to $120,000


Am I Qualified To Apply For Disability?

The SSA looks at medical and work history to determine who qualifies for SSDI benefits. Generally, to qualify for SSDI, you must:

Illustration of SSDI representative and client

Be between 21 and full retirement age

Illustration of man working at laptop

Have worked at least five of the last 10 years and paid FICA taxes during that time

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Be unable to work in any capacity because of a mental or physical impairment that’s expected to last at least 12 months or result in death

Illustration of stethoscope and medical record

Be under the care of a healthcare professional who can confirm severity of medical condition(s)

SSDI Is Your Gateway To A Range Of Benefits And Income

Approval for Social Security Disability Insurance unlocks access to money-saving, life-enhancing benefits beyond regular monthly income.

Your Medical Diagnosis And Getting Disability Benefits

Federal Or State?

Social Security Disability is a federal program. However, claims are first reviewed by SSA-funded state offices, so some administrative processes may vary based on where you live.

How Long Does It Take To Get Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?

Unfortunately, the Social Security disability application and appeals process can mean lots of waiting, so make it your goal to get approved as early as possible in the process.

Give careful attention to initial application forms, whether you work on them alone or with Allsup’s help. Also consider taking a FREE assessment before you fill out a single line on your application, to ensure the time you invest in the SSDI process is well spent.

Good to Know

There is a 5-month waiting period for benefits, this is a big reason to apply as soon as you believe you’ll be out of work for 12 months.

Where Are You In The Social Security Disability Process?

There are five different levels in the SSDI process. Working with Allsup from the start, gives you a 50% higher chance of getting approved when you initially apply. This will save you months of waiting for a decision and gets monthly benefit money in your hands much sooner than applying on your own.

Steps of the SSDI Process

Check out your eligibility for SSDI when you first apply or move forward with an appeal, and find an expert advocate to represent you.

Don’t Go It Alone. Choosing Allsup Can Increase Your Likelihood Of Being Awarded Benefits By 50%.

With our decades of experience and record of success, Allsup delivers True Help® to all our customers. You can see by the chart below that our service far exceeds applying on your own. Do you really want to trust your SSDI journey to anyone else?

How having an SSDI representative helps you with the claim process.
A personal representative that advocates with SSA on your behalf. Won SSDI benefits for 400,000 people nationwide Includes help with Medicare choices. SSA-Approved Employment Network offering return to work services Online portal that streamlines the process. Assistance with appeals. Disability Financial Services℠ to help with the financial challenges you face
Allsup, LLC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Applying on Your Own No No No No No No No
Applying With Others Maybe No No No No Maybe No

Key Social Security Disability Insurance Terms To Know

Learn to speak the language of SSDI, here and now. This glossary of terms includes what’s most important to know, including the legal disability definition that’s used for Social Security disability benefits.

This is the date that the Social Security Administration determines you will begin receiving SSDI benefit payments. It will be several months after your “onset date,” or the date when your condition began, because a waiting period is required.
  1. SSA legal definition: Inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
  2. Everyday translation: You have a medical condition that prevents you from any type of work for 12 months or more, or result in death.
They decide whether or not SSDI applicants are disabled. After reviewing your application, your state’s DDS gathers information from your physicians and may ask you to have an exam with their own physician.
This short form is sent in to the SSA before your SSDI application, and is only needed if you plan to apply with the help of a representative.
Federal health insurance for people with disabilities or aged 65 and up. If you’re approved for SSDI, you’ll automatically have Medicare coverage 24 months after your date of entitlement to monthly SSDI payments.
This branch of the SSA manages appeal hearings for SSDI benefit applicants. When you file a Request for Hearing (the appeal level after Reconsideration), it is sent to your local OHO for assignment to a judge (ALJ).
If your initial SSDI application is approved, you never take this step. If it’s denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal form requesting reconsideration, or a formal review of your case. Reconsideration is level two in the SSDI benefits claim process, and not offered in some states.
The federal government agency in charge of programs for retirement, SSDI, SSI, Medicare, and survivors’ benefits.
Wage replacement available to people who cannot work due to long-term medical conditions. Monthly benefits are paid to those who prove they meet the SSA’s strict qualifications.
Like SSDI, this federal program is run by the SSA. It helps people with very limited incomes who are disabled or more than 65 years old. Work history is not a factor for approval, and some states offer added SSI benefits of their own.
Support for people who receive SSDI or SSI benefits, are between 18-64 years of age, and wish to return to work. This program allows people to go back to work and explore options without losing cash or medical benefits.
SSDI benefit payments don’t start right away. There is a wait that starts with your “onset date,” or the official date that the SSA determines your disability began. Waiting ends 5 full months after your onset date. So unless your onset date is on the first of the month, your wait is more than 5 months.

Expert Help For SSDI From Allsup

When a disability changes your way of life, choices can be overwhelming. Allsup can make one decision easier. When you need disability assistance, you need an expert.

At Allsup, we’re here to help you find out if you’re eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Approval for SSDI unlocks regular monthly income, Medicare and other life-enhancing benefits.

Why Allsup? We have helped over 400,000 people get their benefits in nearly 40 years. Our specialized services get results for people with disabilities, so put Allsup to work for you. Increase your chances of success and get your benefits faster.

Return To Work? Protect Your SSDI Benefits While You Work

Learn more from our Founder Jim Allsup about the incredible financial value of the Ticket to Work program (TTW), and how our experts can help you get started for free. If you’re currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you can protect your SSDI and Medicare benefits while returning to work.

All Things Disability® Blog

Learn more about Allsup and its services by visiting All Things Disability®, a blog for Allsup customers and visitors featuring important information for people with disabilities, including trends and data, news and updates, research and thought leadership on Social Security Disability Insurance, veterans disability appeals, health insurance, medical issues and personal finances.

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Want To Find Out More About The SSDI Process?

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Book cover for 'Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance: Getting it right the first time'