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How to apply for Social Security benefits

If you are considering applying for Social Security disability benefits there are three different ways to could apply for the benefits:

  1. Submit a paper application. This can be done either by going into your local Social Security office and sitting down with a clerk to fill out the application, or you could fill out a paper application on your own. You would print this from your home computer, fill it out and mail it to the Social Security Administration (SSA) via certified mail.
  2. Make a phone appointment. This is the most popular method, and you’d call the SSA or your local Social Security off to make this phone appointment. They’ll usually give you an appointment about 30 days out, and they’ll call you to go over the questions. Usually, this takes about 30 minutes for them to do a phone appointment with you.
  3. Apply online. I find this way to be the easiest. You can sit in the comfort of your home and go through the application process on Social Security’s website. If you get interrupted in the middle of the application process, you can stop, save your information and later come back to it. Usually, the online application takes about 45 minutes total.

So, there are three total ways you can apply.  You can do it via paper, or you can make a phone appointment with your local office, or you can do an online application. These three ways are to apply for the Social Security disability (SSD) insurance program. That program is based on your work history. As long as you have paid into the Social Security system in the past 10 years, then you should apply for the SSD insurance program.

Supplemental Security Income

If you haven’t worked or paid Social Security taxes in the past 5 out of 10 years, you can apply for what’s called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI has only two ways that you can apply.

  1. Paper application: It’s the same thing as the disability insurance program. You can do the paper application, either by going into your local office and sitting down with a clerk to fill it out in front of them on paper, or you can print it off of your computer at home, fill it out and mail it in certified mail.
  2. The second way is that you can do a phone appointment with SSA. Again, this takes about 30 days for them to give you a phone appointment. Now, that doesn’t seem like a significant period of time, but when you’re talking about calculating your back benefits, the date of your filing is going to be very important. For the SSI application, your retroactive benefits or the amount of time you can get paid for back benefits starts as of your filing date. So, if you called today to get an appointment to do a phone appointment for the SSI, and they gave you that appointment 30 days out, you just lost 30 days of possible back benefits.

It’s very important if you are going to apply for either program to get your application in as soon as possible. In terms of the SSD insurance program (based on your work history), you can get paid back as far as 12 months prior to your filing date. That’s different than the SSI application, in which you can get paid up to your filing date. The take-away from this is to get your application in as soon as possible.

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