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The question of when to apply for social security disability insurance (SSDI) might seem simple: Just start your application when you think you won’t be able to work.

SSD4Yet, applying for SSDI has long been complicated. The process outlasts the three- to five-month timeframe the Social Security Administration (SSA) specifies, while applicants frequently find themselves rejected and then waiting on an appeal. So, when’s the right time?

As Soon As Possible

The full application process may last as long as eight months, if not longer. During that time, you find yourself unable to work and see mounting medical bills.

In response, because of the financial constraints you may find yourself, you should apply as soon as you realize you may be disabled for at least a year, if not for the rest of your life.

As Soon As You Could Qualify for Benefits

Beyond just realizing you might not be able to ever work again, how much you bring in per month essentially determines when you should apply.

According to the SSA, anyone who makes more than $1,090 per month cannot qualify for SSDI. If you find yourself disabled and no longer making this minimum, it’s time to start your application.

If You Think Your Condition Might Worsen

When it comes to applying, there’s a gray area many face: You predict you might be able to return to the workforce, but just don’t know when. As a result, the timeframe in which you can apply for SSDI starts to pass.

In this regards, a claimant is recommended to take a couple of approaches, depending upon his or her circumstances:

  • As stated above, apply right away, even if you don’t consider yourself fully disabled. Should your condition worsen, you could end up in financial stress later on. However, if and when your condition exacerbates, document it and present it as evidence for your claim.
  • Wait six months to apply, to determine if your condition will be long term.
  • Start your application with a protective filing date. This strategy lets the SSA know you intend to file over the next few months. Even if your application is not complete by this deadline, it places you within the “date last insured” boundaries of SSDI eligibility.

In all of these instances, be ready with the right documents to file. Claimants need to fill out forms SSA-16-BK and SSA-3368-BK Adult Disability Report, and should compile the following:

  • Your social security number and proof of age
  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers for doctors and hospitals you’ve used, and all dates of visits.
  • Names and dosages of all medications
  • Medical records
  • Laboratory and other test results
  • A summary about where you worked and what your job entailed.
  • The latest W-2 form or copy of your federal tax return.
  • Any information regarding disability claims filed for workers’ compensation or with your insurance carrier.


Citations, “When Should You Apply for Social Security Disability or SSI?”, “What You Should Know Before You Apply forSocial Security Disability Benefits”