Posted 3 years ago

Social Security Disability 101

Are you under the age of 65 and considering applying for Social Security Disability? Supportive Care Services at Ironwood receives numerous requests from patients to guide and assist them in this process. We are not disability experts or attorneys who can legally advise you, but we do have extensive experience working with Social Security and completing the process.

The application can be intimidating and even overwhelming for someone who is not prepared. We want to share with you some advice and tips to be ready for successful completion of a disability application.

Before you apply, here are some frequently asked questions and answers that may help you determine whether applying for disability is the right choice for you at this time.

One of the biggest myths about disability is that you receive Medicare insurance immediately upon being considered disabled. This is untrue. You have to be disabled for at least two years before you can receive Medicare parts A and B, unless you are 65 or older. The only exception is if your disability results from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and you are approved for disability benefits on or after July 23, 2020

If you are over the age of 63 but not yet collecting retirement, you may be qualified to receive a portion of your retirement while you await a decision regarding disability

You cannot be working if you are going to do the online application. If you are working and making less than $1,310 a month, you can apply on the phone with a Specialist. If you are making more than that amount, they generally will not consider you disabled

Social Security has a list of medical conditions that they consider severe enough that I prevents a person from doing gainful activity. For example, having some types of cancer is not in itself a reason for Social Security to consider you disabled. They are very specific about the type of cancer and how it is influencing your ability to function. Here is the li

nk to the page about cancers and how they determine if yours is considered disabling

A person, who has Stage 3 or 4 (Metastatic) cancer, qualifies for an expedited referral process. This means your decision, on average, will take six weeks. For someone who has Stage 1 or 2, your decision can take up to six months.  We suggest that you complete an application on the phone with a Specialist if you have Stage 1 or 2 cancer.

No benefits are paid for those who are only partially disabled or who will not be experiencing the disability for longer than 12 months.

The amount of your monthly disability benefit is based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security.

For the application, you will need to know the following

  • Your place of birth
  • Information about current and past marriages (priors only if they lasted more than ten years or ended in death of your spouse). This includes date of marriage, place of marriage and end date
  • Name and date of birth of minor children, children who became of children who became disabled prior to the age of 22, or children up to 19 years old that are still attending secondary school full time (K-12).
  • Military Service information
  • Employment information for the current year and prior two. This includes employer name, total earnings, employment start date and employment end date
  • Any information regarding Self-employment
  • Bank account information for a checking or savings account. The Social Security Administration (SSA) only pays individuals through direct deposit. You will need the routing and account numbers
  • List of medical conditions, especially those that may be causing you to be unable to work at this time
  • Information about your doctors, healthcare professionals and any hospital stays you may have had. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of examinations, treatments, scans, etc.
  • Medications prescribed by your medical team to address your medical conditions
  • Depending on what the SSA is able to locate on you based on the initial information given, you may need to provide information regarding employment for the past 15 years. You must have worked in jobs that paid into Social Security or self-employment where you paid into it.
  • SSA may also ask you about education and job training you have

If you have all of this information gathered, we recommend that you create a MySocialSecurity account by going to and creating a new account. You will need to enter an email address and be prepared to respond to an account creation link sent to you. Once created, you are able to see how much you are anticipated to receive in disability and retirement, if you have the work credits to qualify, and income history as long as you have paid into Social Security.

You can complete the application online at or by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 and making an appointment with a Specialist.

If you need additional support or assistance with your disability application, please contact one Ironwood’s Social Workers or our Supportive Care Services department.  You can reach us through our direct phone numbers, our main line 480-314-6660, or by emailing us at

About Nicole McCallister, LMSW

Nicole McCallister is a Licensed Master Social Worker.  Nicole received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State University in August 2017.  She received her Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Studies in April 2003 from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI.