What Happens During the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Application and Approval Process?

For those who are disabled, the Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains two types of disability benefit programs: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Through each program type, a person with a qualifying disability can receive monthly cash benefits. While these benefits can have a big impact on a person’s life, the Social Security disability application process can be confusing, and a large percentage of claims are denied.

Here is an overview of what happens during the application and approval process–for more help, call our Social Security disability lawyers at the office of Baker & Baker PLLC.

Differentiating Between SSI and SSDI

Before you begin the application process, it is wise to familiarize yourself with the different types of Social Security disability benefits and determine which one you may qualify for:

  • Supplemental Security Income. SSI benefits are for those who are disabled, blind, or aged (65 years of age or above) and who are of limited income and resources.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance. SSDI benefits are for those who have a qualifying disability and who have earned work credits by virtue of paying into Social Security during their working years.

Application Process

The Social Security Administration recommends applying for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. Once you are disabled and you know what type of disability benefits program you’re applying for, you can start gathering your application materials.

Here is what happens during the process:

  • You submit your application. The first step in the process is submitting an application for disability benefits. The Checklist for Online Adult Disability Application can be used to help you gather the right information for your application.
  • The SSA reviews your application. After you have submitted your application, the SSA will begin the process of reviewing your application and determining whether or not you meet the basic requirements for receiving benefits. This is known as the disability determination process and is described in more detail below.
  • The SSA considers other parts of your application. After deciding whether or not you have a qualifying disability, the SSA will review other parts of your application. For those who are applying for SSI benefits, this process will involve assessing the amount of income and resources the applicant makes/has access to; for SSDI benefits, the SSA will investigate to determine whether the applicant has earned enough work credits to qualify for disability benefits.
  • The SSA evaluates current work activities. During this phase in the process, the SSA will determine whether or not you are working and whether or not you are able to perform any work based on your disability. Remember, if you are able to work and earn over a certain income threshold, you will not be considered disabled in the eyes of the SSA.
  • Your case is referred to the state agency–Disability Determination Services. The last role that the SSA will play in your case is forwarding it to the state-level Disability Determination Services (DDS) office.

Disability Determination Process

The state agency mentioned above–Disability Determination Services–is the agency that’s ultimately responsible for reviewing medical evidence and making a determination about whether or not an applicant is legally blind or disabled, as defined under the law. To begin the process, the DDS will review any medical information that the applicant has submitted with their claim.

If this information is insufficient or ambiguous, then the DDS may request that the applicant participates in a consultative exam (CE). This is a supplemental medical exam that is designed to fill gaps in missing medical information and help the DDS make a determination.

Approval Process

If the DDS determines that an applicant is disabled, they will return the case to the SSA, which will calculate the level of benefits owed to the claimant, complete the approval process, and begin paying benefits. Benefits will be paid for the sixth full month after the date that the SSA determines that your disability began for an SSDI claim.  SSI benefits are payable the month following the date of initial application for benefits.

The Value of Working with a Social Security Disability Attorney

Being approved for benefits is a wonderful feeling; on the flip side of that, though, is the chance of not being approved for benefits, which can be frustrating and stressful. The best way to improve your chances of your claim being approved is to understand exactly what the SSA is looking for during the application, review, and approval processes.

By working with an attorney who has years of experience supporting clients during the disability benefits process, you improve your chances of your claim being approved the first time you apply.

At the office of Baker & Baker PLLC, our committed Social Security disability benefits attorneys are here to support you. We can review your case free of charge and work for you on a contingency fee basis. For answers to your questions about the process and how we can help, please send us a text message (850) 433-0888, visit one of our law offices in-person, or call us directly at (850) 433-0888.