The first step in the disability process is the filing of a disability application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The application can be filed online (for SSDI but not SSI benefits), over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security office. You can file an application yourself, or you can hire a disability attorney to assist you in filing your application; however, you may find that many law firms choose only to handle disability appeals.
Before you or your legal representative files your disability application, voluminous information must be collected for submission with your application. Some of these items include, inter alia: (1) your social security number; (2) your birth certificate; (3) contact information for your doctors and the dates of your visits; (4) the names and dosages of the medications; (5), a complete history of your medical records; and (6) your most recent W-2 and a detailed work history.
There are several forms you will need to complete when applying for disability benefits, dependent upon the type of benefits for which you qualify. To apply for Supplemental Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must complete and file a an Application for Disability Insurance Benefits (Form SSA-16-Bk) and an Adult Disability Report (Form SSA-3368-BK). In the alternative, to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you must complete and file a an Application for Supplemental Security Income (Form SSA-8000-BK) and either an Adult Disability Report (Form SSA-3368-BK) or a Child Disability Report (Form SSA-3820-BK).
Assuming that you meet the minimum requirements, after you submit your disability application to the SSA, the SSA will forward your application to the Florida Division of Disability Determination where the initial disability determination will be made. Quite often, the Florida Division of Disability Determination will request that you to attend a consultative medical exam prior to rendering a decision. In Florida, a disability applicant can expect to wait approximately 3-6 months before receiving a decision on their initial application. Once a determination is made, the SSA will send you a letter notifying you of the decision.