If an illness or accident happens outside of work that will keep you from working for a lengthy period, long-term disability may be an option to look into. If you were hurt while on-the-job, you should be covered under workers’ compensation, and long-term disability won’t be needed.

Some workers have their own private long-term disability insurance plans, but the benefit is not regularly provided by employers as is the case with short-term disability. If you have a private policy, you should take the issue up with your insurance provider. If you don’t have a private insurance policy, you can still qualify for government-backed long-term disability, which will provide you with income while you are unable to work.

Who provides long-term disability?

Long-term disability is provided through the federal government’s Social Security Administration (SSA). The benefits, though, can only be provided if you have worked a certain number of years and you have a medical need that will keep you from working at least 12 months, or could result in your death.

How to Apply for Long-Term Disability

To apply for SSA Disability you will need to follow these steps:

1. Make sure you qualify for SSA long-term disability.

Before you go through the lengthy application process, first make sure that you qualify for SSA long-term disability. The requirements through Social Security include the following:

  • You generally need 40 Social Security credits (20 earned in the last 10 years) to qualify for SSA long-term disability. You earn one credit for every $1,410 in wages earned. For example, if you make $30,000 in 2020, you will have earned 21 Social Security credits.
  • You must be over 18 years old.
  • You are not currently receiving benefits from Social Security.
  • You have not been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days.

2. Set Up a Social Security online account and review the Adult Disability Checklist.

When you begin the process of applying for long-term disability, you will first need to gather extensive medical and personal records proving that you are unable to work for a significant length of time.

The SSA provides you with an Adult Disability Checklist to help you collect all the information you need to apply. You will also need to set up an online account with SSA. You can set up an online account here.

Once you have created the account, you can begin applying for benefits online. Be aware that you’ll have to provide information not only about yourself and your family, but also details about your employer, banking, and medical information.

3. Fill out the long-term disability application.

Once you have gathered all of your Adult Disability Checklist information, you will then need to fill out the SSA disability application. The form is seven pages long, and asks you for the information from the Adult Disability Checklist. The application form can be downloaded here.

This is an example of the first page:


4. Sign and submit your medical release form.

Once you have gathered all of the information you need and have filled out the SSA long-term disability form, you will need to sign a medical release form allowing your medical information to be released for evaluation. The form only requires that you provide your name, date of birth, address, and a few other minor details. A witness must also sign the form. The form can be downloaded here.

Once the brief, two-page form is signed, SSA will determine whether you qualify for long-term government disability. It typically takes around five months before you can begin receiving long-term disability benefits.

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