Is it Easy to Qualify for Social Security Disability?

If you want to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it can be a complex and time-consuming process, but understanding the ins and outs of the system can significantly ease navigation. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to apply for SSDI and SSI, insights into who makes the crucial decisions on an applicant’s disability status, and essential information how to qualify for disability and appeals.

How to Apply for SSDI:

Applying for SSDI involves a straightforward process. Firstly, applicants can submit their application online through the Official Online Page for Disability Benefits ( . After completing the online application, applicants will receive necessary documents by mail from the SSA, which must be signed and returned. Alternatively, individuals can call the SSA to schedule a phone appointment, during which all required information is provided.

How to Apply for SSI:

The process for applying for SSI is slightly different. Individuals interested in SSI benefits must call the SSA to arrange a phone appointment, during which they provide the required information. Some attorneys may also assist in preparing and filing SSI applications.

Who Decides Whether an Applicant Is Disabled?

The decision-making process starts with the SSA. Many SSDI applications fail recency or duration tests, leading to quick rejections. However, an SSI application might fare differently. Individuals without sufficient work history may mistakenly apply for SSDI and face rejection, not realizing they should be applying for SSI. Once an SSDI or SSI claim passes the initial SSA assessment, the case goes to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) agency in the claimant’s home state. DDS evaluates the application and supporting evidence, considering healthcare records, the claimant’s explanation of the disability, and their educational and vocational background. DDS may request additional information from physicians or arrange a consultative examination for a more complete assessment.


If DDS decides you do not qualify for disability and denies your claim, there is a 60-day window to file an appeal or a “request for reconsideration.” After filing a request for reconsideration, the case returns to DDS for review by a new claim examiner and different medical staff. If denied at the reconsideration level, another appeal, a “request for hearing,” can be filed within 60 days. At the hearing level, an administrative law judge adjudicates the claim. Subsequent appeal options exist, but approval becomes more challenging after a judge’s denial.


While studies suggest a 1-in-4 chance for a 20-year-old worker to become disabled before full retirement age, qualifying for SSDI or SSI is not straightforward. Only specific conditions automatically qualify for SSDI or SSI. Besides meeting the SSA’s definition of disabled, SSDI eligibility requires a sufficient work history, and SSI eligibility considers assets and income below specified levels. SSDI benefits can be paid until reaching full retirement age for the entire duration of disability.


Fee-Only financial advisers, accountants, and attorneys specializing in social security play a crucial role in determining the best strategy for maximizing benefits based on individual circumstances. Regardless of marital status, strategic considerations ensure the potential for receiving the maximum benefits available. Careful navigation through the application process, understanding the appeals system, and meeting qualification criteria contribute to a smoother path to Social Security disability benefits.

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