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How Hard is it to Apply for SSI Benefits?

Encouragement for parents applying for social security benefits for their disabled adult child.

By Rick Smith

What is the SSI process like?

Although we worried about it for years, starting the SSI process was fairly easy. Under the new SSI procedures, you begin by applying to the Federal Government online.

However, a state agency makes the disability decision. They review the information you give us. They will also ask for information from medical and school sources and other people who know about the child. If the state agency needs more information, they will arrange an examination or test for the child, which they will pay for.

Was applying for SSI difficult?

I must say that applying is a time consuming and complex process. The SS office offers a variety of online tools, helpful publications, and usually helpful people for those applying. Still, filling out the form describing our son's disabilities was time consuming and requires the gathering of lots of documentation. The more information you have in a file about their condition and the specialists they have seen next to you when you fill out the form, the better.

Eventually, there will be one or more interviews and contacts over the phone. These were pleasant and relatively brief. On three occasions we had to see specialists designated by SS. These were independent assessments and took about the time of a normal appointment for that specialty.

The appeals process-should your child be turned down and you believe they qualify-involved some further writing but is more 'free form'.

How long does it take to get an answer on SSI?

Overall, our process took a year. The first answer from Social Security wasa denial. It took about 6 months. There was another 6 months for the appeal which consisted of additional documentation, medical referals and visit to a doctor that Social Security selected for a follow-up examination. Once he was approved, however, the first retroactive check (one of three covering the elapsed year) came fast and the monthly checks started very soon thereafter. This is a huge step forward for our son toward becoming more independent and ultimately contributing back to society.

Once my child is approved, are they eligible forever?

No. Each person's situation will be reviewed periodically to see if they are still eligible. In my son's case, the approval letter suggested a review in 2 to 4 years.

Rick Smith: Recently, my adult child was notified by Social Security of his eligibility for benefits based on his multiple disabilities. Before applying to Social Security, we found much detailed information but few summaries about the process in plain language. I write this synopsis as a Dad who navigated the process rather than with the legal authority of a lawyer or bureaucrat. If you wish more detail or want additional verification, please consult a professional. Or you may wish to check into these recent books on Social Security

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