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

Members: 46
Latest Activity: Dec 5


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 Oct 21. 3 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. 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. 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. 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 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.

Comment by sunshine on October 29, 2014 at 7:56pm

Thanks guys!  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you all!  :)

Comment by Liz on October 29, 2014 at 7:10pm

My advice is have the residual function capacity form filled out by your doctor. The judges put a lot of weight on that. And I agree with garmstro......they do take into consideration how the medication you take effects your ability to work. I was asked if the medication made it difficult for me to concentrate & focus to do tasks. I also used an attorney I found recommended on bensfriends. I used sslg.com. Another helpful site I used was www.ssdfacts.com. There are people there who can share their wealth of knowledge. If I can be of any help feel free to contact me.

Comment by sunshine on October 29, 2014 at 4:30pm

I was wondering, if I haven't been put on many different meds if that makes a difference.....I was placed on Humira pretty quickly....but still have some ugly flares.

Comment by garmstro67 on October 29, 2014 at 3:45pm


     Yes the sure do look at how your medicine affects you. Especially drowsiness and how it effects your ability to drive. I am not sure what your second question is, but if you clarify I would be glad to try and help. It is a confusing long and difficult process. This thread was a great resource for me, as I am sure it will be for you. 


Comment by sunshine on October 29, 2014 at 3:05pm

So glad to hear the good news Liz and garmstro67!  Hope things are finalized quickly for you!  :)

So I have another question....or 2....

Do they look at what you can / can't do while being on medication for a particular length of time?  Do you have to try several things before they will consider?

Thanks for the input and advice!  :)

Comment by garmstro67 on October 29, 2014 at 2:25pm
I'm glad to hear that the hearing went well for you. I had my hearing on October 10th. The vocational expert was asked at the end what jobs I would be capable of doing, and she simply said none. Once the recorder went off he said "don't worry, Mr Armstrong, just get me the x-rays I requested and we will get this taken care of." So my attorney and I both thought he would most likely approve it. It sounds like you will finally get what you deserve. Since my hearing I have been trying to get an idea of how long I would wait to get my decision. Generally they say another 60 to 90 days but that is just an estimate. I have read of some people waiting 6 to 9 months! I guess a lot depends on the back log of the decision writers. Please let us know how long it takes to get your decision and I will do the same. I hope you get yours in the short 3 to 6 weeks. More waiting, that's great, but I have been waiting almost 2 years so a couple of months should easy and worth the wait, assuming I am approved and get my back pay. It sure would be nice to get it before the holidays.

Comment by Liz on October 29, 2014 at 1:57pm

So I finally had my hearing this morning. Now I wait for the letter to see what the judge had to say. Although based on how things went. I think I will be approved. I had a video conference & the judged asked me the routine series of questions: How long can I sit,walk,stand,& so forth. He then asked the vocational expert what jobs I could do. The response was "none" The judges response was no sense in belaboring the point. I have enough information to make my decision. And that was it....it was over. My lawyer said in 14 years of doing this he never saw it go like that & he believes I will be approved. I will keep everyone informed as soon as I get a letter back from the judge.


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