By Bryan Mac Murray, Outreach Specialist, Social Security Disability Help (Not affiliated with Social Security Administration)
Applying for Disability on Behalf of Someone Else
The Social Security Administration (SSA) knows that disability applicants are not always physically or mentally able to complete the application themselves. For this reason, there are processes in place that allow a caretaker to apply for Social Security disability benefits for someone else.
You can complete an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Either or both of these disability programs may be available to help cover the everyday living expenses and medical care costs of your friend, family member, patient, or client.
Who can Complete an Application for Benefits?
There are no limits placed on who can complete an application for someone else, though the SSA will ask you to provide information about yourself and your relationship to the applicant. Attorneys, social workers, healthcare providers, and others often help disability applicants fill out required forms. Friends, family members, and caretakers of disabled persons also have the ability to apply on behalf of a loved one who is ill or otherwise impaired.
What’s Needed for the Application?
The disability application requires many details about work history, former job duties, education, job training, finances, and medical condition. Review the SSA’s adult disability starter kit before you begin working on the application. It will help you know what kinds of information you need to gather to fill out required forms.
A social worker, disability advocate, or Social Security attorney may be of help when you’re preparing to apply for benefits for someone else. This is especially true if that person is unable because of mental incapacity to give you access to their medical records, financial information, or other details needed for the disability application. You can apply online for SSDI, but SSI benefits require a visit to your local SSA office.
What Happens after the Application is Submitted?
Although you are completing the application for someone else, the applicant must still sign the forms you fill out, if he or she is able to do so. After you finish the initial application, the SSA will send a copy to the applicant, letting them know you’ve applied and that their signature is needed before they can formally be considered for disability benefits.
If the person for whom you are applying wants you to act on their behalf in all matters with the SSA, they can assign you as their personal representative. This is done by completing the Appointment of Representative form (SSA-1696), which also requires the applicant to sign.
What is the Person for Whom You’re Applying Can’t Sign?
Some applicants are unable to give their consent by signing any forms due to physical or mental incapacity. If the applicant gave you “power of attorney” (POA) before they became disabled, then your POA status will allow you to complete the application process for them. If not, then you’ll need to become the person’s legal guardian or another legal guardian must be assigned.
State laws determine how a legal guardian is established, and you’ll need to seek help from an attorney, social worker, or advocate familiar with guardianship laws in your home jurisdiction. In a case like this however, you likely will not just need guardianship for SSA purposes, but to make other decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person as well, including health-related and financial matters.