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Ask Atticus: How Can I Help a Loved One Get Disability Benefits?

Written by
Sarah Aitchison
January 18, 2023  ·  2 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

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Dear Atticus,

My son was in a motor vehicle accident about a year ago and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He is in his mid-40s and, up until last year, was able to work. Since the accident, he’s moved home, and has required a lot of care. He’s unable to handle day-to-day life (cleaning, cooking, etc.) without help — and definitely can’t return to work. I believe he would be a candidate for Social Security disability but he can’t fill out the application or advocate on his own behalf. How can I help him? Can I apply for him?


Tired Mom

Dear Tired Mom,

I am so sorry about the impact this has had on your family. But I think you’re right. Your son should try to get Social Security Disability benefits — assuming his condition will keep him out of work for at least a year. There’s a lot you can do to help him if the process is too challenging for him to complete on his own.

Generally, a family member or friend can help apply for SSDI on behalf of another person. To start, you can help your son get necessary documents in order by calling and requesting the relevant work and medical documents they will need to complete their application. Medical evidence is critically important for a successful application — so any test results you can get your hands on will be a big help. It’s also important to make sure that your son continues to get regular treatment while his application is in motion.

We’ve written up instructions for filling out the disability application and other common forms the SSA might request — like the work history report and the function report. There’s even a “third-party” version of the function report specific to circumstances like yours — where you share your observations on your son's limitations.

Although you do not need to be an appointed representative (like a lawyer might be) to provide information to the SSA for your son during the application process, you will need to provide some information about yourself and your relationship to the person you are applying for. Your son will need to sign the application themselves, as well as agree to the terms of service.

If your loved one does not have the mental or physical capacity to sign on their own and you are not already a designated representative or have power of attorney, you may consider working with a disability lawyer to understand any steps you might take to be able to complete the application on their behalf.

If you feel lost, confused, or overwhelmed, you can always call Atticus and tell us a bit about what is going on with your son. We can point you in the right direction for your son’s case or get you set up with an attorney who can help you both throughout the process.

Wishing you all the best, Tired Mom!



P.S. Straight answers about disability can be hard to find. At Atticus, we can provide free legal advice and connect you with a lawyer to help you get the benefits you deserve, as quickly as possible. Get started here with our 2-minute intake quiz.

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How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Sarah Aitchison


Sarah is an attorney at Atticus Law, P.C. Prior to joining Atticus, she was a civil public defender in Brooklyn, NY and a business reporter in Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law.
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