The following provides a brief overview of the Social Security Disability Insurance application and appeals process. Social Security pays you (and certain family members) benefits if you become disabled and unable to work. The Social Security Administration has two different disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You may qualify for one program or both.

What is SSDI?

Social Security pays you (and certain family members) benefits if you become disabled and unable to work. SSDI is for people who worked at least 40 quarters before they became disabled and paid taxes into the Social Security system.  Qualification is based on the person's prior work history and the amount they paid into the system.

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income is similar to SSDI (above) in that you receive it if you become disabled and unable to work. It is also available to the aged (65+) and blind. However, SSI does not have a work history requirement like SSDI. Instead, SSI is need based. It is for low-income individuals - people with limited income and resources. See our SSI page for more information on eligibility.

The Application Process

You submit an application for benefits either online or in person to the Social Security Administration. Applications for SSDI benefits only can be done online or in person. Applications for SSI benefits are only accepted in person at your local Social Security field office. There is no fee for applying.

With your application you will need to submit medical evidence of your disability. This includes medical and hospital records as well as supporting statements from your doctor(s). You will need to prove that your medical condition(s) are disabling and prevent you from working and are expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. See Am I Disabled?

You do not need to have an attorney in order to apply for benefits. However, having an attorney can help make the application process easier since Social Security Disability attorneys are familiar with the rules, and can prepare appeals and represent you in a hearing before a judge if one is needed.

There is no fee to hire an attorney. Social Security sets representation fees. A representative may receive 25% of their client’s back pay when they win the case. The maximum fee is $6,000 (excluding reimbursements for any expenses that the attorney paid out of pocket, such as fees for obtaining your medical records).  Your attorney only gets paid if you are awarded back pay.

What if my application is denied?

Most Social Security applications are denied at first. If your initial application is denied, you will receive a Notice of Denial.

If your application is denied, then you can file a Request for Reconsideration, which is the first appeal.  Many people who did not file their initial application with the help of an attorney decide to hire one at this stage or the next stage. Keep in mind that there are deadlines for filing appeals! If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, the next step is to file a Request for Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge. This level is your best chance of being approved for benefits. It is your opportunity to testify before a judge as to how your medical condition(s) prevent you from working. A good attorney will help you to collect all the medical evidence, obtain supporting statements from your doctors, prepare you for the hearing and write a persuasive pre- and/or post-hearing brief for the judge.

If have questions or would like to discuss your case with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney, simply fill out the “Free Consultation Request” form or call our office at (916) 750-5292.