Social Security Disability

Post-stroke disability may leave you unable to work, which can lead to serious financial issues for you and your family. If you are unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Here is a 5-step overview:
Step 1—Wait. 
You have to wait least 3 months after your stroke to apply for SSDI. This is because the long-term effects of a stroke can be nearly impossible to measure in the short time following a stroke. Everyone recovers differently. (Hopefully, you can take advantage of your company's short-term disability for those 3 months.)

Step 2—Go to the SSDI online application.

Step 3—Fill out the Disability Benefit Application.
For this Application, you should have:
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your birth certificate or proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency
  • If you were in the military service, the original or certified copy of your military discharge papers (Form DD 214) for all periods of active duty
  • Your W-2 Form from last year or, if you were self-employed, your federal income tax return
  • Direct deposit numbers (from a check) to have your monthly benefits deposited automatically;
  • Information about any workers’ compensation claim you have filed
Step 4—Answer the questions on the Adult Disability Report.
For this Report, you should have;
  • The contact info of someone who knows about your condition and can help with your claim
  • Information about your stroke, including dates of treatment, and patient ID numbers; and the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the medical providers who treated you
  • Names of medicines you are taking and who prescribed them
  • Medical records that you already have
  • A list of up to five jobs and dates you worked during the last 15 years
Step 5—Mail or take the documents that they ask for to your local Social Security office.

Remember, in order to qualify, the following need to be met.
  • You can’t be able to work due to the stroke.
  • You need to have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years and be 65 years of age or younger. 
  • The disability needs to be expected to impact the applicant for at least 12 months if not longer.
  • A doctor needs to provide solid evidence to support your filing.

Getting help 

The process to apply for disability assistance from the US government can be long and complicated. In fact, the majority of the applications submitted to the social security department for programs such as SSDI are denied by the Disability Determination Services department. For this reason you might want to hire an advocate.

An advocate is someone who answers your questions, works with your doctors to get the proper records, represents you at hearings, and generally helps you win disability benefits. Your chances of winning Social Security disability benefits are higher if you’re represented by a disability advocate, especially if you hire an attorney advocate. 
While it's true that advocates are regulated by Social Security in the fees they charge. (They work on “contingency," meaning they get paid only if you win your case.) For some people, that is too much cost for them. Websites like and are good resources for finding free legal help. Many law offices donate a percentage of their time to providing free (pro bono) legal and also are trained in navigating the SSDI process.

Confusing names
All of the above pertains to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). But SSDI is different from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the names are often confused.

  • SSDI is only available to workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits
  • SSI disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have either never worked or who haven't earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

If you want to apply for SSI, you have to call and make an appointment (800-772-1213); you cannot apply online.

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