Current course:  SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Online Course: Adult Curriculum

SSA-16: Application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is an insurance program. Therefore, no information about living arrangement or resources is required. Instead, the SSDI application will ask questions about past earnings and entitlement to other benefits. People over 18 years of age who have worked and contributed to the Social Security Trust or others who became disabled before the age of 22 whose parent is deceased or receiving retirement or disability benefits may be eligible.

The SSA-16: Application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), can be completed online. Although SSA will accept paper applications, it strongly prefers the online version.
SOAR recommends that case managers use the paper form (PDF) as a worksheet and transfer the information to the online application. If you have all the information, it should only take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. In this article, we'll discuss the SSA-16 paper form to help you prepare to use this with applicants. (Note: If you are taking the SOAR Online Course, please use the SSA-16 form provided in the Class 1 Practice Case).
**Note: SSA updated the SSA-16 in June 2018. The guidance below references this most recent version of the form.

Completing the SSA-16

SSA-16 Questions 1-8: Demographic Information

This is a series of questions asking about the applicant’s name, date and place of birth, if a public or religious record of birth was made, and if the applicant previously used other names or Social Security numbers.
SSA may require the applicant to produce a copy of their birth certificate to verify their age.This is not required at the time of application, but may be needed prior to payment. If SSA has seen and recorded the birth certificate on a prior occasion it may not need to be presented again.Check with the local SSA office.

SSA-16 Question 9: When do you believe your conditions became severe enough to keep you from working (even if you have never worked)?

For this question we recommend using the applicant’s last date of work. SSA will examine all of the applicant’s prior employment to determine if any of the previous work attempts were unsuccessful (i.e.: the applicant was unable to sustain work for more than a few weeks or months due to disabling mental or physical health conditions).
  • This question will also come up on the SSA-8000 and SSA-3368. It is important to remain consistent across all forms with the date you provide, or it could delay processing at SSA.
  • For individuals who have never worked, such as youth exiting foster care, SSA’s guidance is to “enter the date when he or she believes the condition(s) became severe enough to keep him or her from working.” Since youth can work before age 18, you can enter dates prior to their 18th birthday if that is relevant.

SSA-16 Question 10: Previous Applications for Social Security benefits

If the applicant previously applied for Social Security benefits under their own or someone else’s record (i.e.: a spouse or parent), enter information requested about the previous application.

SSA-16 Question 11: Prior Military Service

Note that this question is only asking about military service between the years 1939-1968. This information is requested so that SSA can accurately identify military earnings between those years. Information about military service after those dates will be collected in the SSA-8000 (question 60).

SSA-16 Questions 12-15: Other Entitlements and Prior Marriages

These questions ask about pensions and annuities the applicant may be eligible for based on work with the railroad industry, employment in a foreign country, or private employer pension plans. Applicants may also be eligible for disability benefits based on their spouse’s earnings record, so SSA asks for details about all prior marriages.

SSA-16 Question 16: Children under the Age of 18

If the applicant’s claim for disability benefits is approved, their children (including adopted children, and stepchildren) or dependent grandchildren (including stepgrandchildren) may be eligible for benefits based on the applicant’s earnings record.
SSA will ask for the full name of all children who are now or were in the past 12 months unmarried and:
  • Under age 18
  • Age 18 to 19 and attending elementary or secondary school full-time
  • Disabled (age 18 or over and disability began before age 22)

SSA-16 Questions 17-20: Other Earnings

Since SSDI is an insurance program, SSA will ask questions about past employment and earnings.
  • For question 17, SSA asks if the applicant had wages or self-employment income covered under Social Security in all years from 1978 through last year. They are looking to see if the applicant held any jobs where Social Security taxes were not deducted or withheld.
    • Some employers, such as state or federal government agencies, non-profits, and foreign employers, are not required by law to withhold or deduct FICA or OASDI taxes from an individual’s earnings. If this applies, check “no” on question 17 and provide details in 17b.
  • In question 18, SSA is looking for details about employment for the current and past year only. Employment prior to this will be listed on the SSA-3368 (question 6).
  • If the applicant was self-employed or had earnings in the prior year, complete questions 20 as appropriate.

SSA-16 Question 21: Ability to Work

Pay special attention to how this question is phrased. In 21a, it asks the applicant if they are still “unable to work” because of their conditions. In 21b, it asks about the date they became “able to work.” If the applicant is still unable to work, 21b can be left blank.

SSA-16 Question 22: Workers Compensation

This question asks: are your illnesses, injuries, or conditions related to your work in any way? In this context, SSA is exploring the applicant’s eligibility for Workers Compensation (i.e.: was their condition caused by an injury at work?).
Note: Members of the military are not eligible for Workers Compensation from injuries received during military service. Alternatively, they may be eligible for VA disability benefits.

SSA-16 Question 23: Blindness or Low Vision

This question asks if the applicant is blind or has low vision even with glasses or contacts.

SSA-16 Question 24: Intent to File for Other Benefits

SSA needs to know if the applicant intends to file for any other benefits. For SOAR, representatives assist with both SSI and SSDI applications, so the box for Supplemental Security Income should be checked. If the applicant served in the military, check the box for Veterans Administration Benefits and ensure that the applicant is connected with assistance for VA disability benefits. If the applicant is eligible for welfare in the state he or she resides, check that box as appropriate.

SSA-16 Questions 25-28: Payments from Employers and Dependents

These final questions on the SSA-16 ask about any money received from employers after the applicant became unable to work and if the applicant was supporting a child or parent when he or she became unable to work.

SSA-16 Remarks

In the remarks section of the SSA-16, document that this is a SOAR application. It may also be helpful to provide the SOAR representative’s contact information and note that the applicant is experiencing or at-risk for homelessness. If there are any other details related to the questions on this form, also provide that information here.
When the case manager is ready to submit the complete application packet, he/she can transfer information from the paper SSA-16 to the online version. There are a number of advantages to using the Online Disability Benefit Application:

Record Trail

A key advantage to the online application is that it provides a better “record trail.” 
  • No need to worry about when and if SSA receives the information
  • SSA staff can quickly verify submitted information and, if it meets insured status/eligibility standards, forward to DDS for a medical decision

Completing the Online Disability Benefit Application

Another convenience of transferring the information to the online application is that the person completing it can do so all at once. However, should you need to leave the application before it is finished you can do so by selecting “Save and Exit.”
  • After entering and saving demographic information about the applicant, a re-entry number is provided. This sets a protective filing date for both SSI and SSDI
    • Tip: Formerly, SSA provided both an application number and re-entry number for online applications. Beginning January 2014, only one re-entry number is provided and needed to access the online application forms
    • If you lose the re-entry number, SSA employees cannot access the information.

  • Proceeding beyond the re-entry number screen will trigger the local SSA field office to move forward with the application and set an interview date to complete the application
    • Note: The applicant should not proceed beyond the re-entry number screen until the case manager is ready to submit the complete SOAR application packet
  • Tip: If you receive a screen that tells you, “We cannot process your request at this time,” and instructs you to go to the SSA office to complete the application, confirm that you have the correct first and last name, date of birth, and Social Security number. If this information was entered incorrectly, you can re-start the application the next business day online.
  • Once the online application is submitted, use the re-entry number to check the status of the claim
  • Note that once you sign off, you must wait about five minutes before signing on again
  • During the protective filing period, an unlimited number of re-entries using the correct SSN and re-entry number are possible