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Self-Help Guide: Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits (Part 1 of 5)

Part One: First Things First (Page 1 of 2)

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Updated June 19, 2008

Part 1 of 5 - A Self-Help Guide: Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits By Janie M. Laubscher

First Things First

Much has been written about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, and there is a great deal of anxiety generated by reports of the difficulty in getting these benefits and the length of time it takes.

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  • The Stakes Are High

    I'm going to tell you some steps you can take to give yourself the best chance for a favorable decision on your initial claim, thereby avoiding the lengthy appeals processes. This will involve some effort, and success is not guaranteed. But you'll help yourself by doing your part to present your case as strongly as possible. The stakes are high - monthly checks and Medicare.

    Become Informed

    To do the best job of presenting your case, you need to know all you can about Social Security's disability program. The best way to find out is to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to get some of their publications (which, by the way, are all free).

    Publications

    Below is a list of those I recommend. Most of them are short and easy to read. Read them according to my suggestions and your own interest and write down any questions you have. Then call SSA's toll-free number or visit any Social Security office and ask your questions. Once you've done this, you'll feel more comfortable about the application process - and you'll know more about SSDI benefits than most of the people in the world. Editor note: In addition, once you decide you are going to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits you should also obtain and review the Adult Disability Starter Kit. Please see Social Security Disability Benefits - How To Apply - Step-By-Step

    6 "Must Have" Publications

    A list of six "must have" publications:

  • Understanding The Benefits - Pub. No. 05-10024 - The work requirement is in this one, along with other useful tidbits. Read selectively.
  • Disability Benefits - Pub. No. 05-10029 - This one's critical. Read every word. It, too, explains the work requirement.
  • What You Need To Know When You Get Social Security Disability Benefits - Pub No. 05-10153 - Explains some of your rights and responsibilities when you receive disability benefits from Social Security.
  • Supplemental Security Income - Pub. No. 05-11000 - Read this if you have a low income and are interested in seeing whether you qualify for these benefits.
  • How Workers' Compensation And Other Disability Payments May Affect Your Social Security Benefits - Pub. No. 05-10018 - Look over this one and read any sections that may apply to you.
  • Disability Evaluation Under Social Security - Pub. No. 64-039 ("The Blue Book") - This is a large, soft-cover booklet written for doctors and other health professionals.
  • The Blue Book

    The Blue Book explains the Social Security Disability Program and the types of medical evidence needed to evaluate disability claims.

  • Parts I and II consist of 17 pages and are not difficult reading. Read them, if possible.
  • Part III is the listing and description of impairments that are so severe as to be considered automatically disabling. You may have heard of these "disability listings". The material is organized by body system and is much more technical than that in the previous two sections. You don't need to read any of Part III, but if you're curious about how arthritis is evaluated look under Musculoskeletal System, page 19. Be sure to get this publication even if you don't think you'll read it - I'll tell you why later.

    How To Get The 6 Publications

    The first five publications are available at any Social Security office. Often, they're displayed in a pamphlet rack in the reception area. If not, ask the receptionist for them. The publications can also be obtained by calling SSA's toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213 If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, call their toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.

    A third option is to download them from SSA's official web site.

    Social Security Web Site: http://www.ssa.gov/

    You can obtain publication number six ("The Blue Book") by mailing or faxing a request to SSA's Baltimore office to:

    Social Security Administration
    Public Information Distribution Center
    P.O. Box 17743
    Baltimore, MD 21235-6401
    Fax No: (410) 965-0945


    Ask for the booklet by name and publication number and be sure to include your name and mailing address. I recently requested this booklet by fax and was quite pleased when I received it within a week.

    Go On To Page 2 ---- Part One: First Things First ---->

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