Slepian Smith, PLLC

What can I expect from the SSDI application process?

Question: About ten years ago, I was in a serious accident. I was hurt pretty bad--in fact they weren't sure I would make it. As a result of that accident, I've been struggling with anxiety and depression and although I have taken two separate leaves of absence from work, the time away is not helping. My counselor has suggested that I apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. What is the process? I have so little energy, I worry about being able to complete it.

Answer: Depression and anxiety can be debilitating conditions. That's one of the reasons the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers benefits for severe mental health conditions. It's clear that people such as you need help just as much as people with physically disabling conditions.

You've asked about the application process. It begins with a simple two-part test to ascertain whether you are eligible for SSDI benefits. Criteria for application are:

  1. You must have accrued at least 20 quarters (5 years) of work credits over the last ten years before you stopped working. These quarters do not have to be consecutive.
  2. You must have a disabling condition that prevents you from working full-time for at least one year. This is very important. Many people believe they can only receive benefits if they are permanently disabled. While it is true that, in order to qualify for benefits, you must be completely unable to work full-time, the duration of disability need only be one year -- not the rest of your life.

If you meet these two requirements, you can apply for SSDI benefits. You may do so in person, over the internet or by phone with SSA. Once your application has been accepted, you will receive a lengthy questionnaire that requires you to provide detailed information about your conditions, the doctors you are seeing, and the medications you are taking. It is extremely important that you fill out the questionnaire thoroughly. Without detailed information, SSA may deny your claim.

Once your completed questionnaire is received, SSA will use your medical records and opinions from doctors to determine if you qualify for disability benefits. After all documents are reviewed, SSA will make a determination and either approve or deny your claim.

You were concerned about your ability to navigate the application process. The process can, indeed, be emotionally and physically draining. Thankfully, SSA does allow you to seek help. If you feel that you need assistance, a Social Security disability attorney is the best person for you contact.

*A final note: Individuals who do not have the work credits to qualify for SSDI may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) depending on financial eligibility.

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