How to Apply for SSI Disability Benefits

If you are over 65, blind, or disabled, you may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a monthly benefit for elderly, blind, or disabled individuals who have extremely low incomes, limited assets, and who have not worked enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). If you think you meet the qualifications for SSI, you should not delay applying for the program, since the approval process can take a long time.

How to Apply

There are a few ways to start your application. First, you can visit a local Social Security office in person to start your application. If you want to visit an office in person, you can locate the office closest to you by entering your zip code on Social Security's website.

You can also call Social Security to begin the application process. To contact Social Security by phone, call 800-772-1213 Monday through Friday. When you contact Social Security by phone, they will schedule an appointment for you to talk to a representative, either in person or by phone, to finish your SSI application.

You can also start your SSI application online. If you are comfortable completing online forms, this can be a quick and convenient way to get started. Even if you file online, you will still need to have an interview with Social Security to finish your application. SSI claimants cannot complete the entire application process online.

If you need special assistance completing forms or understanding the process, you will probably want to contact Social Security in person or by phone. If you have an impairment that makes it hard for you to apply for SSI, Social Security will help you apply. Similarly, if you have a language barrier to applying, Social Security will provide an interpreter for you at no cost.

Required Forms

Social Security uses two main forms for SSI applicants. The first is the SSA-8000-BK, the Application for Supplemental Security Income. The SSA-8000-BK is aimed at gathering information from you so that Social Security can tell if you meet all of the requirements for SSI (other than having a medical disability). Social Security is looking to see that you have citizenship or legal residency, limited income, and few assets. The SSA-8000-BK is a long form, but most of the information that it asks for will be easy for you to get.

The second main form for SSI applicants is the Adult Disability Report. You can start your SSI application online by filling this form out online. When you complete the form online, Social Security gives you a number to use so that you can log in and out and continue your work on the form at a different time. When you’ve finished filling out the form, Social Security will give you a receipt that you can print out to show that you submitted your disability report online. Once you have submitted your disability report, Social Security will schedule an appointment for you to finish the rest of the application paperwork by phone or in person with a representative at your local Social Security office.

When you are preparing to complete the online Disability Report or preparing for your interview, you may want to consult Social Security's adult checklist, where Social Security lists all of the documents and information you need to collect to help you complete the form and get ready for your SSI interview. Some of the things you'll need are:

  • your Social Security number
  • information about others living with you
  • information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or your lease and landlord’s name
  • paystubs, checkbooks, and other information about your income and the things you own
  • contact information for all of the doctors, hospitals and clinics that you have been to, and
  • proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency.

You will also complete the Authorization to Disclose Information form (SSA-827), giving Social Security permission to get information and records from your doctors. If you have copies of some of your records already, submit them to Social Security with your application to hep speed up the process.

If you do not complete the Adult Disability Report online, Social Security may ask you to complete the "Medical and Job Worksheet - Adult" before your disability interview. The form asks you to list your doctors, medicines, and job history.

After You Submit Your Application

After Social Security determines that you meet all the requirements for SSI besides the disability criteria, it will send your application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in your state. Claims examiners at DDS review all of your records and may ask your doctors for more information or send you for additional consultations or tests. For an idea about the way DDS reviews medical records, see “What Evidence Should Be in your Medical Records Before You Apply for Disability.”

Eventually, DDS decides whether you meet Social Security's definition of disabled, and Social Security sends you a written decision. If your SSI application is denied, you have the right to appeal. Many attorneys will not actually take disability cases until Social Security has issued a denial. If you have not already hired an attorney, then you might want to consider talking to a few after you are denied benefits. You can arrange a consultation with a disability lawyer on our site.

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