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Social Security Disability Application Checklist


Check List Before Applying For Disability

Before applying for Social Security Disability from the SSA the Disability Care Center recommends you complete the pre-application check list for social security disability benefits. This check list will let the applicant know if they meet all criteria needed for a successful disability application, it will ensure all proper medical documentation is already complete and allows for greater chances of approval when applying for disability benefits.

Basics to a Social Security Disability Application:

1.) ☑ Understand the SSA’s definition of disability:

The Social Security Administration defines an individual as disabled if they have the inability to work and engage in “substantial gainful activity” – earning more than $1,090 per month. If you meet the following requirements the SSA may qualify you as disabled.

  • The applicant can no longer perform their current job duties.
  • An adjustment to a new occupation isn’t possible because of their medical condition.
  • The disability or illnesses is expected to last a minimum of one year or result in death.


2.) ☑ Know the basic requirements:

The SSA offers two different disability programs – SSI (supplemental security income) and SSDI (social security disability insurance). Both programs are offered to Americans who are disabled but each has different work history and income/assets limits.

  • SSI is for individuals who haven’t worked 5 out of the last 10 years and earn low income. The SSA is strict on the income and assets allowed in the household. Please see our SSI page for full details.
  • SSDI is the other benefit program that is for individuals who are over the age of 18 and have worked 5 out of the last 10 years.
  • Typically the SSA will only approve a claim if they have a strong medical history documenting their illnesses or conditions. Claimants who see a doctor every 90 days for their conditions and are medicating are more likely to be approved.


3.) ☑ Figure out work credit history for program qualifications:

The SSA uses work credits to determine if an individual has worked 5 out of the last 10 year and qualifies for either SSI or SSDI. An individual may earn up to 4 credits per year and must have 20 work credits to meet the 5 out of 10 requirement for SSDI – one work credit is equal to $1,220.

4.) ☑ Check the SSA compassionate allowance list:

The Social Security Administration recognizes a list of illnesses that automatically qualify an individual for disability benefits as long as they meet one of the two programs' financial requirements. Please review out Compassionate Allowance page.

5.) ☑ Check your illnesses in the qualified medical conditions list:

Along with the Compassionate Allowance List the SSA also has a “blue book” of qualified medical conditions that are illnesses recognized by the SSA that potentially qualify for disability benefits. Please visit our Medical Qualifications page to ensure your condition is listed.

6.) ☑ Understand exceptions for approval:

The SSA has a list of exceptions to their rules for SSI and SSDI when trying to qualify.

  • If an individual who becomes disabled before the age of 24 they only need to have earned six work credits in the past three years.
  • If an individual who become disabled is between the ages of 24 to 31 they will need to have worked half their life from the age of 21 until they became disabled.
  • The SSA also has special exceptions for individuals who are applying and are blind, deaf, wounded veterans, and disabled children or widowers.


7.) ☑ Gather All Necessary Documentation

Once an applicant has completed the check and decides they potentially qualify for Social Security Disability have the following information gathered to ensure a timely application.

  • Birth certificate and citizenship information
  • Marriage or Divorce certificate
  • Names and birth information of children if any
  • Education and Training
  • Employment history –wages, time worked, employer names
  • Occupation history – Date medical conditions or illnesses began to affect work abilities, duties at jobs and how conditions interfere
  • List of all medications, doctor visits and surgeries pertaining to your disabilities
  • Name and contact information of a friend or family member who can testify about your medical conditions
  • Record of service in the military
  • Banking information


8.) ☑ Be prepared to wait:

With over 70% of initial applications being denied and less than 15% being approved at the reconsideration stage there is a high chance that it will take over a year for you to receive disability benefits. If you would like to ensure this doesn’t happen please consult with one of our disability advocates.