Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

How to apply for Social Security disability

You can apply online for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). You may want to assemble all the documents you need ahead of time; Social Security provides a handy, and lengthy, checklist.

You can also apply by telephone at 800-772-1213 or in person at your local Social Security office. If you want a Social Security representative to assist you with your application, contact your local office to schedule an appointment. 

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine. Find out how much you could save in a year with a membership. Learn more.

Join Now

For your SSDI application to be approved, you must demonstrate severe or total disability: an injury or condition that prevents you from engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (i.e., most work) and is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Social Security maintains a detailed list of impairments with additional information on how it evaluates disability claims.

If you believe you may qualify for SSDI, get the process started as soon as possible. In 2023 the average time to get an initial decision on a disability claim was more than seven months. Many claims are denied at first, and the appeals process can take months, even years, due to a huge backlog of cases.

Keep in mind

  • If you want to apply online, you must not have had a claim for disability benefits denied in the previous 60 days, and you cannot already be receiving any Social Security benefits on your own earnings record.
  • Unlike with retirement benefits, there is no minimum age to collect SSDI. If your disability claim is approved, your payment is calculated as if you had reached full retirement age (the age at which you can receive 100 percent of the benefit you are entitled to, based on your earnings history).
  • “Substantial gainful activity” is defined by a cap on work income that changes annually based on national wage trends. In 2023 the limit is $1,470 a month ($2,460 a month for the statutorily blind). Outside of trial work periods and other programs designed to help SSDI recipients get back into the labor force, you cannot collect disability if you are earning more.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?