En español | Social Security pays benefits to people under full retirement age who cannot work because they have a disabling medical condition expected to last a year or longer or result in death. Partial disability or short-term disability does not qualify for benefits. You must have worked a certain amount of time in covered employment. The time required depends upon your age at the time the disability began. Your disability must be medically documented, and the qualification guidelines are strict.
There are two ways to apply — either online (at socialsecurity.gov) or by making an appointment to file your claim by calling the Social Security Administration (800-772-1213). The appointment can be conducted in person at a Social Security office or by telephone. You’ll need to gather information about your medical condition, education and work history. See Benefits for People with Disabilities for information on what you need for a successful disability claim. It can take a long time to process a disability claim. You will be asked to sign a release form to enable Social Security to access your medical records, and Social Security may send you to medical consultants for further evaluation.
If your claim is denied, you have several appeals steps you can use to have your claim reviewed by higher authorities. Legal representation is not required but is definitely helpful.