The Interview With A Social Security Representative
Applying for SSDI starts with an interview with a Social Security Representative in a Social Security field office. Preferably, the interview should be in person. See Why Do The Interview In Person? for the reasons why.
Interview with whom
The interview will likely be with an SSDI specialist. If none are available, the interview will be with:
- A specialist in Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or
- A "generalist" (a person who knows both SSDI and SSI), or
- A "TE" a "Technical Expert" who is a step above a representative.
What happens during the interview
Since Social Security has gone paperless, the interviewer will ask you questions and note your answers in the computer. She or he will also take whatever documents you present.
The Representative will:
- Look up your file in the computer to make sure the necessary work credits exist.
- Confirm the information Social Security already has about you, such as your current address.
- Ask for the information in the forms SSA-3368-BK and SSA-3369-BK.
Tips for the interview
- Be prompt -- Social Security runs on a tight schedule, especially in busy offices, so be on time. Take something to read, however, because they often get backed up in their appointments -- but don't count on it.
- Don't work too hard to look sick -- This appointment is with the Claims Representative, and that is not the person who is going to determine if you are medically disabled. That's a whole different agency in another location. On the other hand, you shouldn't be dressed to run in a triathlon either. Keep in mind that part of the form the representative completes, asks what he or she observed about you. Also keep in mind that what he or she says will not make or break a case: only the facts will do that.
- Don't sugar coat your situation.
- Health Condition: We're often used to downplaying symptoms when people ask how we feel. This, however, is the time to let the Representative know how you really feel. Think about your worst days, not your best.
- Financial Condition: If you're in dire financial straits, let the representative know.
- Don't say more than you have to. You can't win your claim based on what you say, but it can be used later to deny your claim.
- Get a written receipt for all documents and forms you leave with Social Security. This will fix the date of your application in writing and confirm what original documents, such as a birth certificate, Social Security is keeping. You should get the originals of such documents back. Usually, Social Security representatives will simply photocopy the documents after checking them so you don't have to leave the originals.
- COBRA: If you have COBRA be sure you tell that to the Claims Representative and make sure s/he notes it in your file. Social Security representatives are supposed to handle those claims faster so you don't lose the opportunity to extend the COBRA coverage.
- Terminal condition: If you are arguably dealing with a stage of a health condition that could be described as terminal, call that to the attention of your Representative since those claims are handled faster.
- Contact information: Find out who you should call with questions and more information -- and get their direct phone number. Usually the person for you to call to follow-up will be the Claims Representative that you are meeting with, but sometimes, especially if you are a walk-in applicant, the person interviewing you will pass your file to another Representative who will actually handle the processing.
- Additional information or documents: Make a list of any additional information or documents you are asked to provide. Before you leave the meeting, show your list to the Claims Representative to make sure the list you made is complete and accurate. If s/he makes a copy of the list for her files, there is documentation in the file about what you are expected to do.
- Address: The Social Security forms do NOT ask for your address. Social Security will use the address they have in their records. During the interview make sure Social Security has your correct mailing address.
- Releases: The Claims Representative will have you sign several copies of a medical release (Form SSA-827-OP1 (8-94) Authorization for Source to Release Information to the Social Security Administration (SSA)) giving Social Security and DDS permission to acquire your medical records from the various practitioners you listed in your form.
- COBRA: If you need a determination from Social Security that you are disabled for purposes of COBRA/OBRA, let the Representative know it. Even if the representative determines you're not eligible for SSDI, you will need to have your disability status examined.
If a Social Security claims representative determines you are not eligible for SSDI
- Normally, your claim will be denied and not sent on to medical review.
- If you need a determination from Social Security that you are disabled in order to extend your COBRA coverage, tell that to the Representative. Representatives are supposed to process those claims through the Medical Review even though you are not eligible for SSDI. If the Representative refuses to obtain a medical evaluation, ask to speak with a supervisor.