Published on: October 13, 2015
To be eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration’s SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) program, applicants must fulfill two general criteria: medical eligibility and work eligibility.
Using the Recent Work and Duration of Work tests, the administration determines the requirements as to how many years you need to have worked relative to your age, as well as the years leading to your disability. This is very important, as any benefits you receive will reflect your contributions to Social Security in the form of regular payroll taxes.
The SSA will complete these tests using work history records, such as W-2 forms and tax statements. In this blog, we highlight certain work and education documents you should provide when applying for SSDI benefits.
Necessary Documentation to Receive Benefits
To determine an applicant’s eligibility for disability benefits through SSDI, the SSA will generally refer to your working history as posted to your Social Security Earnings Record. To determine if you are able to do any other type of work, the SSA will review your condition, age, skills and education. With this information, the administration will use vocational profiles to determine your ability to effectively work and earn in any field. Age is taken into account during this review, as the SSA anticipates those age 50+ will not adjust as well to new work as younger applicants.
The following are the most important pieces of work- and education-related documentation you’ll need when applying for SSDI:
- Some proof of your birth; most often a birth certificate
- Social Security card or other proof of U.S. citizenship (or lawful alien status)
- W-2 forms from your place of occupation, as well as self-employment tax returns if applicable, for the prior year
- Pay stubs or settlement documentation for any workers’ compensation you may have received or are currently receiving
- Military discharge papers if you served in the U.S. military prior to 1968
- A checkbook or bank statement showing your account and routing numbers with your current financial institution
It’s important to note that, while this list contains most of the necessary work/education documents for SSDI, it may not be comprehensive in your unique situation. As you’ll learn in the following segment, every application case is different, and some will require information beyond those for standard applications. Additionally, do not forget to collect all medical evidence of your condition, in addition to an Adult Disability Report (which is provided by the SSA here).
Information You Should Know Beforehand
Beyond physical documentation, tax information and medical records, there is a wide range of other information you should prepare before applying for disability benefits. Throughout the application or appeal process, the SSA will ask you any - and many - of the following to determine your eligibility for disability benefits:
- If you served in the U.S. military service before 1968, and if so, your dates of service and eligibility at the time for monthly military/Federal benefits
- If you have ever qualified for pension payments or annuity based on Federal employment
- The names, dates of birth and social security numbers of any former spouses, as well as your current spouse
- If a child under the age of 3, for whom you were a legal guardian, ever lived with you in a calendar year of zero earnings
- If you are going to receive money from your former/current employer since the date on which you became unable to work
- If you receive, have filed for or intend to file for things such as Workers’ Compensation, Federal Employees’ Retirement or Civil Service Retirement
- If a parent has been dependent on you for at least half of his/her support needs
- If you have any open felony, state or Federal warrants for your arrest, including violations of probation/parole
- If you have ever used a different name or Social Security number
More goes into a disability benefit determination than you might believe. Your working history and living situation three decades ago may affect your eligibility for benefits today; it all depends on your unique circumstances. However, by collecting all the necessary documentation listed in this blog and preparing yourself for the SSA’s inquiries, we hope that you’re much more prepared to apply for disability benefits than before.
One of the best things an applicant can do to improve their chances of a positive determination is reach out to a disability advocate who can help him/her gather documentation and talk directly with the SSA. If you’re currently applying or planning to apply for disability benefits, don’t hesitate to talk with a professional - it can make all the difference in your ultimate determination.