If you’re planning to apply for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), you’ll want to put your best case forward — and that isn’t always an easy proposition. Before you ever sit down to fill out the application, you’ll need to have a long list of documents in your possession. That’s true whether you intend to file online, by phone or through an appointment you’ve scheduled with your local Social Security Administration office.

What do you need to file for disability benefits?

For starters, you’ll need a lot of your personal paperwork. That includes your birth certificate or other proof of birth. While copies of documents will suffice for many required forms, you’ll need an original birth certificate. (If you can’t locate yours, you can pay a fee to the clerk or recorder in the county of your birth to get a certified copy.)

If you weren’t born in the United States, you’ll need proof of citizenship or your status as a lawful alien. If you’re a veteran who served in the military before 1968, you’ll also need your discharge papers.

The Social Security Administration also will ask for a disability report that details your injury or illness and your work history. You’ll need doctors’ reports, medical records, test results and other evidence that support your claim. 

You also will be asked to submit any proof or temporary or permanent workers’ compensation you’ve received. Award letters, settlement agreements and pay stubs are acceptable. You also will need to have copies of your W-2 forms or tax returns, if you were self-employed.

While you won’t need documents to prove other things, you’ll need to know the answers to a number of questions, including:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your citizenship status
  • If you’ve filed for Medicare or Social Security benefits in the past
  • All previous names you’ve used
  • Any earnings you or your spouse might have had in the railroad industry
  • The name, birthdate and Social Security number of your current and any previous spouses
  • When and where you married, and when they ended if you aren’t still married
  • The names of your employers or information about your self-employment over the past two years
  • Any disability benefits you applied for previously

SSDI could be your financial lifeline moving forward, and a complete application without gaps is less likely to be unfairly denied. An attorney experienced in SSDI cases can help you navigate this difficult process more easily.