Social Security Disability

If you’re too debilitated by migraine to work, applying for disability benefits may have crossed your mind. Although it can be a lengthy, complicated process, knowing what to expect can help keep you from becoming hopelessly overwhelmed.

Social Security Disability general information

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program operated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides a safety net for qualifying Americans. Within SSDI are two separate programs: (1) Supplemental Security Income and (2) Social Security Disability.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides benefits to disabled adults and qualifying children with limited resources. Social Security Disability is a program for disabled adults who meet the work credit requirement (generally working five of the last 10 years) and have paid Social Security payroll taxes. The application process for both programs is the same for most people.

Application process

There are two main aspects of your application: (1) the Disability Benefit Application and (2) Adult Disability Report. You can complete the application process in person, online or on the phone. Regardless of the filing method you choose, you will need to know:

    • Name, address and Social Security number for you and your spouse.
    • Your current earnings.
    • Date you became disabled.
    • Information about former militay service, if applicable.
    • Medical Information:
      • Names, addresses and phone numbers of all doctors who have treated your medical condition.
      • Chart numbers and insurance numbers.
      • Dates you were seen by your doctors and dates you were treated.
      • Names of medications you are taking, the reason you are taking them, and the doctor who prescribed them (Your pharmacy can help you gather this information).
      • Information about medical tests. You will need to know where you were tested, the date of the test and who ordered the test.
      • Medical records.

Employment Information:

    • Jobs you worked in the 15 years before you became disabled.
    • Dates you started and ended your employment in those jobs.
    • The tasks you performed in those positions.

Applying online is a great idea because you can stop and save your application any time you need. You can provide the required information in stages over days or weeks and take time to determine what you want to say, and how you want to say it ahead of time. Make sure you comply with any deadlines you are given by the SSA.

Once you have submitted your information, a claims representative at your local SSA office will make a determination about your eligibility based on the non-medical aspects of your claim. A disability examiner, someone who works in an agency in your state, will become familiar with the medical aspects of your case and make a determination about whether you are eligible to receive benefits based on your condition and how it impacts your ability to work.


If you are denied benefits by the disability examiner, there are ways to appeal the decision. That process can take a long time and be quite stressful. Hiring an attorney experienced in handling disability appeals is a good idea.

© Diana Lee, 2012
Last Updated November 11, 2012

Diana Lee is an attorney and Migraine patient advocate and educator. She blogs at and She runs a bimonthly Migraine Chat providing support and information for migraine patients and a monthly Headache and Migraine Disease Blog Carnival for other headache disorders bloggers.