Filing a Social Security Disability Application—What You Need to Know

July 4, 2024

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu observed that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It is a reminder that any journey, any process, can seem daunting, but it’s important to take things one step at a time.

If you’re unable to work due to an illness or injury, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, but the qualification process can seem overwhelming. You just need to take that first step and file an application for disability benefits. From the Chicago disability lawyers at Nash Disability Law, here is what you need to know about filing.

Understanding the “Protective Filing Date” for Social Security Disability

Before starting the disability application process, it’s crucial to understand the significance of what Social Security calls the “protective filing date.”

The protective filing date is the date you first contacted the Social Security Administration (SSA) to express your intent to apply for disability benefits. This date is important because it can determine when your benefits start, even if you complete the application process later.

Essentially it protects your eligibility and ensures you do not miss out on potential benefits while gathering necessary information, so don’t delay your application because you’re trying to compile every piece of information. Certain details may become important later, but the priority is to establish your protective filing date as soon as possible.

Remember, you don’t need to stress finding all the dates, numbers, and names immediately.

Focusing on your protective filing date can safeguard your claim and ensure you don’t miss out on benefits. Always consider consulting a disability attorney early in the process to guide you through these requirements and help spot potential issues.

Call us at NDL. Our Social Security Disability attorneys have years of combined experience helping people in the greater Chicago metro area get disability benefits.

Information You Will Need for Your Disability Benefits Application

Before you even look at the disability application form, gather the information you will need:

  • Your age and Social Security number
  • Your employment history, including employers’ names and addresses, dates of employment, and your job duties for the past five years
  • Your most recent W-2 or your last year’s tax return if you were self-employed
  • Information about your current marriage including spouse’s name, birth date, and SSN
  • Social Security numbers and proof of age for family members who may qualify for benefits
  • Contact information for all your doctors and other health care providers and the dates they treated you
  • The names and dosages of your medications

You’ll also need to provide your bank account and routing numbers, if you have them. Social Security issues your disability payments by direct deposit. If you don’t have a bank account, you can sign up for a DirectExpress debit card once your case is approved.

Complete the Adult Disability Report

There are several forms you are required to complete when you file an application for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Adult Disability Report (ADR) (SSA Form 3368-BK) asks for detailed information about your education, work history, the limitations caused by your conditions, and your medical treatments. Because the ADR can take time to complete, you may want to complete it in sections.

Tips for completing the ADR:

  • Read the instructions for the form very carefully.
  • Answer every question on the form, and write “don’t know,” “none” or “does not apply” where appropriate. Leaving questions blank may further delay an already lengthy approval process.
  • If you need more space for your response to a question, use Section 11 – Remarks. Be sure to write the number of the question you’re answering.
  • Enter all your physical and mental impairments, even if you think they aren’t severe. The combination of your conditions can add up to an inability to work. Social Security is required to consider the combined effect of all your conditions.
  • You do not need to request your own medical records. Social Security will obtain your records using the treatment information you provide in the report.
Carefully Choose Your Disability Onset Date

Pay careful attention to this part of the application. When you apply for disability benefits, you will be asked on the forms for the date you became unable to work.

This is known as the “alleged onset date (AOD).”

This is often the date you stopped working but can also be based on a medical event. When you are successful in making your case for disability and you are awarded benefits, you will be given an “established onset date (EOD),” which may be the same or different from the AOD.

This is the date Social Security agrees you meet the disability standard. It is set either by a Social Security administrative law judge or an SSA Disability Determination Services adjudicator.

The evidence presented in your case will be the basis for deciding your established onset date. In other words, your doctor’s reports and notes, medical tests, your work history, your testimony (if you have a disability hearing), and the application you filled out will determine how far back your benefits will extend.

In the “Remarks” section at the end, you can add information about how your disabling impairments affect your activities of daily living, which can include everyday tasks and functions like:

  • Using the bathroom
  • Bathing
  • Getting dressed
  • Taking care of children or pets
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Engaging in hobbies
  • Interacting with others
Authorization to Disclose Medical Information

At the end of the disability benefits application, you will have to consent to have your medical records disclosed to Social Security. If you complete a paper application, you’ll answer this question on the “Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration” (Form SSA-827-BK).

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Financial Interview

Based on your answers on the Adult Disability Report and other information on your application, Social Security may also hold a financial interview to determine if you are eligible for SSI benefits once your claim is approved. In this interview, the SSA will ask about any income or assets in your household, even if they are not a result of working.

Get a Free Evaluation from a Social Security Disability Lawyer Before Applying

The application process can be lengthy and confusing. It is wise to consult with a skilled and experienced disability attorney who knows what it takes to get a disability claim approved.

A government study reported that if a claimant had a representative such as an attorney at their disability hearing, they were almost three times more likely to be allowed benefits than someone who had no representation at all.

Contact us at Nash Disability Law for a free evaluation of your case. And if you work with us, we only get paid when you win your case.