How to Apply for Medical Disability and Get the Support You Need

Living with a disability can be challenging, especially when it comes to navigating the often-complicated process of applying for medical disability. For many people, filing a disability claim can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of applying for medical disability, and share some tips on how to get the support you need to manage your disability.

Understanding Medical Disability

Medical disability is a government-sponsored program that provides financial assistance to individuals who are unable to work due to a physical or mental disability. The program is designed to help individuals who cannot engage in substantial gainful activity due to their disability. In order to qualify for medical disability benefits, you must meet certain criteria. We’ll explore those criteria in more detail in the following sections.

Eligibility Criteria for Medical Disability Benefits

1. Work Credits

One of the first things you’ll need to determine is whether you meet the work requirements for medical disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a system of work credits to determine eligibility for benefits. These credits are awarded based on the amount of money you have earned over your lifetime. In general, you need to have earned at least 20 credits in the past 10 years to be eligible for medical disability benefits.

2. Severity of Your Disability

The SSA has a strict definition of disability. In order to be considered disabled, your condition must prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). This means that you are unable to earn more than a certain amount of money each month due to your disability. In general, if you earn more than $1,310 per month (as of 2021), you will not be considered disabled.

3. Duration of Your Disability

The SSA also requires that your disability be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. This means that your condition must be severe enough that it prevents you from working for an extended period of time.

The Application Process

1. Gather All Your Medical Records

Before you begin the application process for medical disability benefits, you will need to gather all your medical records. This includes records from doctors, hospitals, and any other medical professionals that have treated you for your disability. You will need to provide these records to the SSA as part of your application.

2. Fill Out the Application

The next step in the process is to fill out the application for medical disability benefits. You can apply online or in person at your local Social Security office. The application will ask you to provide detailed information about your disability, your work history, and your medical treatment.

3. Submit Your Application and Wait for a Decision

Once you have completed the application, you will need to submit it to the SSA. The SSA will review your application and medical records to determine whether you meet the eligibility criteria for medical disability benefits. This process can take several months, so it’s important to be patient.

Appealing a Denied Claim

If your application for medical disability benefits is denied, you have the option to appeal the decision. There are several steps in the appeals process, including requesting a reconsideration, attending a hearing, and appealing to the Appeals Council. If your claim is still denied after all these steps, you can file a lawsuit in federal court.

Getting Help to Apply for Medical Disability Benefits

Applying for medical disability benefits can be a complex and daunting process. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to help you navigate the system. The SSA provides a wealth of information on their website, including detailed guides on how to apply for benefits, and what to do if your claim is denied.

1. Disability Attorneys

One option is to hire a disability attorney or advocate to help you with your claim. These professionals are trained in the ins and outs of the medical disability system, and can help you prepare your application, gather your medical records, and represent you in hearings or appeals if necessary. While disability attorneys can be expensive, many work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if you win your claim.

2. Nonprofit Organizations

Another option is to seek help from a nonprofit organization that specializes in disability advocacy. There are a number of organizations that provide free or low-cost assistance to people who are applying for medical disability benefits. These organizations can help you with your application, answer your questions, and provide guidance throughout the process.


Applying for medical disability benefits can be a challenging and complex process, but it doesn’t have to be. By understanding the eligibility criteria for benefits, and following the steps outlined above, you can increase your chances of a successful claim. Remember, there is help available if you need it, so don’t be afraid to seek assistance from a disability attorney, nonprofit organization, or other resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: Can I apply for medical disability benefits if I have a mental illness?
  • A: Yes, you can. Mental illnesses are covered under medical disability, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria for the program.
  • Q: How long does it take to get a decision on my medical disability claim?
  • A: The processing time for medical disability claims can vary widely, but it can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more to get a decision.
  • Q: Can I work while I am receiving medical disability benefits?
  • A: Yes, but there are strict limits on how much you can earn. If you earn more than a certain amount each month (currently $1,310), your benefits may be reduced or eliminated.
  • Q: What happens if my medical disability claim is denied?
  • A: If your claim is denied, you have the option to appeal the decision. The appeals process can be lengthy and complex, but there are resources available to help you navigate it.


Social Security Administration. (2021). Disability benefits. Retrieved from

National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. (2021). FAQ for Claimants. Retrieved from

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