A forum to discuss the Disability Application Process and learn from member's experiences in the US and internationally.

Members: 48
Latest Activity: Jun 7


Filing for disability insurance isn't necessarily a "crisis" in itself.  But job loss for many people is.  Thus you may need to apply for help at a time when you are otherwise in the middle of a mess.  You might find yourself dealing with a lot of distractions while you're trying to get financial help for your day-to-day expenses.  

The disability process is different from country to country.  In the US, it is also different for private disability insurance (which you have paid for, or which was provided through an employer) versus for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  The central "contract" is the same.  In return for having paid in a monthly insurance premium, an insurance company or government agency will partially replace your income for some identified period of time, after a medical condition makes it impossible for you to work.

For both public and private insurance, there is a waiting period after you have been forced to stop working, before you can apply for disability compensation (for SSDI it is five months).  To qualify for disability under SSDI, you'll need to go through an evaluation called "Residual Functional Capacity" or RFC, and demonstrate a level of disability which will keep you from working for at least a year. There is also a maximum amount of money that you are allowed to earn from occasional or part time employment, without a decrease in your SSDI benefit.  Disability payments and allowances for other outside income are generally not high.  But everything helps.

In the US, it is important to know that the SSDI application process may involve as many as three stages which might require a year or more to get through.  To start, you need to go to your nearest Social Security Administration office for pamphlets which describe what you do and what documents you need at each of these stages.

For the first two rounds of the process, you won't need a lawyer and in my opinion you would be well advised not to hire one.  What the attorneys don't want you to know is that a Social Security representative can assist you with the paperwork by asking you the questions and then they fill in your answers, either in person or in a phone interview.  You don't have to do anything.  Then the Social Security personnel send requests to your doctors for your records.  You are not involved in that process at all.  Additionally, your attorney actually doesn't do anything until a denial is made and you request a hearing and they don't even spend a moment filling out your paperwork - their paralegals do.  I was able to be approved on my first application without an attorney and it saved me thousands of dollars.  

A lawyer' fee for representing you in the SSDI process can be determined in one of two ways, both of them set by the Social Security Administration, not State law. The nominal fee is 25% of any award that you get of SSDI payments previously denied, up to a maximum of $6,000 dollars.  However, the lawyer may also petition the Social Security Administration for some other level of compensation after an award is made. 

If you must change disability lawyers in the middle of a case, things can become both complicated and expensive.  For background reading see The Social Security Insider.    Be aware also, that some lawyers don't support first-time applications because they feel the awards may not be large enough to cover their expenses.  In any event, if you and/or a family member can do this process for yourself without a lawyer's help, you might come out better financially.

Your disability application will need to be backed by letters from your doctor (or doctors).  These letters must identify your medical diagnosis and describe any past or present treatments that have a bearing on your ability to work.  The doctor will also describe your symptoms and reactions to treatment, showing how these symptoms make it impossible for you to take regular employment -- even working from home.  Many patients report being required to be interviewed by another doctor who is appointed to evaluate you and confirm that the symptoms and issues in your application actually exist.  To be awarded disability, you must demonstrate that you are expected to be unable to work for at least a year.  And the doctors who support your application need to be considered mainstream practitioners.   The findings of a Chiropractor or Herbalist will have much less credibility than those of an MD, Doctor of Osteopathy or Ph.D. Psychologist.

About a third of all first-time SSDI applications are granted on the first try.    Another 10-20% are granted on a reconsideration application. The rates of successful application vary sharply from US State to State.  Numbers quoted on the website of  "The Ultimate Disability Guide" vary from a high of 52% approval on a first application in Hawaii, to a low of 23% in South Carolina.  

If you apply for SSDI and are denied, and then you apply for reconsideration and are again denied, there is a second level of review before an Administrative Law Judge.  At this level you should be represented by an attorney.  There is yet a third level of review in an Appeals Council.  Theoretically, you could go even higher than the Appeals Council in Federal Court, but such legal actions are quite rare.

Be aware that once you have "won" an SSDI case, you also need to be mentally prepared for a periodic review by the Social Security Administration to determine whether you continue to be disabled.  If all of this looks like an obstacle course to you, then you have a lot of company among disability applicants.

For additional information and insights, I suggest that you visit the Ultimate Disability Guide, above.

More links:

"The Social Security and Disability Resource Center.

How Do I Submit and Support a Disability Claim?

Discussion Forum

Self employed....

Started by sunshine. Last reply by sunshine Jan 19, 2015. 5 Replies

Hey guys...new to this group and need some help.  I had to quit my job...after being on FMLA for a month because I just wasn't able to be reliable even part time.  My husband is self-employed and I…Continue

Private Long term Disability application

Started by Babs. Last reply by Butler Jul 4, 2014. 2 Replies

Hi everyone,Has anyone applied for LTD through a private insurance company ?  I have numerous health conditions that are not improving, in fact getting worse as I age ( 59..ugh !). Was allowed short…Continue

Is there an option for people who haven't been working?

Started by nym. Last reply by Babs Jun 2, 2014. 3 Replies

I had a friend recently ask me why I'm not on disability, as it was the plan for me to go back to work part time when my youngest turned 6, and that just can't happen because of my health issues.…Continue

Recently applied and waiting for a response back???

Started by Liz. Last reply by basset momma May 31, 2014. 9 Replies

Just wondering if anyone in this group has applied for disability & wanted to share with the group where they are in the disability process??Continue

Comment Wall


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Comment by sunshine on January 23, 2016 at 12:15pm

Hi Pattie!  Congrats!!

I just got back on insurance (Obamacare) and have been able to go back to my Derm that I like and have an appt to see a new Rheum on Feb 24.  I am covered with Psoriasis head to ankles and am having to use topicals.  From the time I step in the shower to the time I am done applying creams and lotions it takes an hour and a half!  That's not including drying hair or makeup etc!  I hope to get back on Humira but want to see the Rheumy first.  My PsA is not as bad as it was because I am not working outside the home.  Days that I do a lot of cleaning or mow or do alot of grocery shopping I am exhausted and depending on the weather...very sore.  My biggest issues are my hands,and feet and my right shoulder.  Depression is always a factor.

I have a bunch of questions if you don't mind......if you are not comfortable just say so!  :)

 - Do they look at just how you are doing when on medications or when you are off?

 - Do they take into account how difficult / high maintenance your life has become.  (can't just pop up, shower and go to work for 8 hrs!)

 - Do they take into account this disease (seems) to come in waves?  Can do well and then out of no where BAM! ?

Sorry.....because my last Rheumy didn't write anything down that I told him I've started to wonder if it matters in the grand scheme of things or if I just need to suck it up and deal with it...

Thanks for any input!


Comment by Pattie on January 23, 2016 at 10:44am


I applied for SSDI last July.  Thankfully I was approved yesterday.   It was first round approval.

I suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis and Fibromyalgia.  I also have depression related to my chronic illness.

Please don't give up.

I used a disability lawyer to assist with the process.  


Comment by garmstro67 on January 23, 2015 at 4:08pm

Thank you so much sunshine. I really hope you can avoid that 15 month wait. I think I waited 16 months between my 1st denial/appeal date to my ALJ hearing. It is important to have all of your doctors document all of your problems and troubles with daily activities. After reading my decision letter it looks like my rheumy took very good notes and was a huge help to my case. Which is good, I had a GP for 3 years that did not send any records even after 2 requests. Luckily the new one provided me with hers, even though she was only my doctor for 3 months prior to the hearing. keep us updated. For now, I will be waiting, impatiently for my back pay which will be for 25 or 26 months.

Comment by sunshine on January 23, 2015 at 2:19pm

Congratulations garmstro67!  You give me hope!  I spoke with my Atty this week and she said it looks like I will be denied the first go 'round but told me to get in with my Rheumy (have appt on Tues) and get him "on board" and we can petition for re-eval so I don't have to wait for the hearing....15 months out!

Again, so very happy for you!

Comment by garmstro67 on January 23, 2015 at 11:30am

Today I received my fully favorable decision. This has been a very long and difficult process. I would not want that to discourage anybody from applying, however, if you are unable to work you should apply. I will now have to wait for my back pay and monthly checks to start so that I can begin paying off the debt and medical expenses from the past 2+ years. I will be glad to help anybody who is applying.

      I am discouraged today from what I found in other threads listed when you search disability. it seems some people here feel that this disease is not enough to justify disability. I myself had other problems, but PsA was what put me over the edge. If you have questions, I would say to ask the people on this thread that have went through or are going through the process. You will notice that several of us have been approved. Everyone is different and these blanket statements are 1) hurtful and 2) simply not true. If you have a question about whether you will qualify for disability, my suggestion is to contact a disability lawyer. They will generally only take cases that they think they can win, because that is the only way they get paid.

Comment by Liz on December 25, 2014 at 11:17am

Thank you sunshine. I have never been a fighter. So even starting this process was something I dragged my feet on. Hearing someone else say I was not as sick as I knew I was, was not something I wanted to deal with. But that is what disability wants everyone to do. Give up & go away. Hang in there till the very end. If I can offer any advice feel free to contact me anytime.

Comment by Liz on December 25, 2014 at 11:12am

Thank you, garmstro67 it took me about 4 weeks after the hearing to get my letter. In fact I heard from the social security office BEFORE my letter arrived! I am still waiting to hear from social security on how much I will get & when it will start. The lady told me she was working to get me set up to start in January. I will keep you posted. I did not find xrays very helpful. My MRI's were more helpful & much more revealing. If I can offer  you any more assistance feel free to message me anytime.

Comment by garmstro67 on December 5, 2014 at 9:04am

I am so glad to hear that Liz. I am still waiting, but I needed to get them some x-rays and that was done 30 days ago, so I am anxiously checking the mail every day. I will be curious to know how long it now takes you to get the letter from SS and the actual check or deposit in to your account. Once again congratulations, now you can concentrate on taking care of yourself.

Comment by sunshine on December 4, 2014 at 9:27pm

Congratulations Liz!  And thanks for the encouragement!  :)

Comment by Liz on December 4, 2014 at 8:10pm

Just received my fully favorable decision today from social security judge. Found favorable effective 2012! Keep fighting & NEVER give up.


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