Questions You Need to Ask Before Filing for Disability


The concept of Social Security Disability Insurance was developed by the Social Security Administration in 1936. The planning committee placed a strict definition on the term “disability” to differentiate between unemployment and actual disability. In brief, they defined disability as a mental or physical condition that severely and continuously inhibits an individual’s ability to engage in gainful employment. The program was developed over a course of years and passed Congress in July of 1956.

There have been many changes to the program since 1956 and the filing process may seem overwhelming. Many people ask a friend or family member for assistance. Some applicants engage firms such as Summit Disability Law Group to help them navigate the process. It is important to be prepared before applying for benefits.

Diagnosis or Condition

What is the diagnosis or condition that prevents employment? The Social Security Administration will request medical confirmation and an estimated length of time the condition is expected to persist. The disability needs to last a minimum of one year or be considered terminal to qualify. The SSA may also ask for names of friends and relatives who can corroborate the disability. Social Security uses a list of impairments to evaluate eligibility for benefits. Disabilities not included on the list are not necessarily automatically denied.


Have you followed the course of treatment outlined by your doctor? This can be critical to your application. Refusal of medication or therapy can have a negative impact on your claim. It is important to prove you have done everything possible to minimize your impairment.

Work History

What is your past work history? You may be expected to meet the duration and recent work criteria to be considered for benefits. In general, this means you should be able to prove employment for a minimum of five years during the 10 years prior to applying for disability. They may also consider your type of work and training in relation to your disability.

Career Change

Are you physically or mentally capable of doing a different type of work? You may be unable to return to a physically challenging job, but it may be possible to work in a clerical position.

When to File

Filing an SSDI claim can be a long and arduous process. It is important to apply as soon as possible after a disability begins. Because many claims are initially denied it can take months or even years to be approved and receive benefits.

Paperwork and Information

What kind of information will the SSA request? A Social Security Administration representative will interview you in person or over the phone. They may request specific documents and personal information.

  • Birth certificate or proof of citizenship
  • Social Security number
  • Marriage certificate
  • Your date of birth
  • Your spouse’s date of birth
  • W-2 forms from the past year or longer
  • Military service
  • Medical records from physicians or therapists pertinent to your claim
  • List of medications and dosages

The questions may seem needless and endless, but it is in your best interest to answer honestly. Remember, SSDI is a slow process. Feel free to contact the SSA every few months to check the status of your claim, but patience and perseverance will be your greatest allies.