If you are no longer able to work because of a disability, you may be eligible for government assistance. Here's how to find out and claim your benefits.
Step 1: Investigate and inquire Talk to friends and research online to find out about disability benefits. If you are no longer able to function for your employer or expect to be out of work for at least a year due to a disability, you may be eligible.
TIP: Though an attorney is not necessary, your chances of being approved are better if you have one.
Step 2: Obtain an application Obtain an application from the local Social Security Administration office. You can get the form online if you're over 18 years old. Then submit the form and make an appointment.
Step 3: Get interviewed Interview with a representative who will ask your permission to speak with a doctor about issues regarding your disability. The information will be used to complete the disability report.
Step 4: Answer questions Answer questions about the work you performed before the date of your disability. Provide background information regarding your family, military service, treatment, depression, pain, and previous worker's compensation incidents.
Step 5: Expect close scrutiny Expect Social Security representatives to examine whether the years you worked qualify your claim and whether your condition merits benefits. The Disability Determination Services office will also evaluate your current work activities and abilities.
TIP: You may qualify for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, if you are elderly, blind, or disabled, and can demonstrate financial need.
Step 6: Pass review Pass the board's review of suitability to be submitted for approval. If they're not able to make a clear recommendation, the board may order a special state medical examination before making a final determination.
Step 7: Wait for approval Wait for the claim to be reviewed by a state agent who will determine your eligibility for benefits, which generally takes less than four months.
FACT: Nearly 600,000 people filed for disability benefits online in 2009, more than doubling claims from the year before.