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How to Get Disability Benefits if You Don't Have Health Insurance

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
April 15, 2024  ·  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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If you are applying for Social Security disability benefits, medical evidence is a crucial part of your application. This “evidence” consists of records and treatment notes from your doctors — anything that can help show an official diagnosis, prove your limitations, and demonstrate the severity of your condition. And the best way to get this evidence is by regularly seeing doctors for medical care.

Technically, you’re free to apply for disability even if you don’t have health insurance. However, if you aren’t receiving regular medical treatment, it will be much more challenging to show the Social Security Administration (SSA) why you need benefits.

Take a look at what you need to know about how to get disability without insurance.

Do I need health insurance coverage to qualify for disability?

Technically, disability applicants are not required to have health insurance coverage. Your health insurance status does not determine your eligibility for SSDI or SSI.

However, if you’re applying for disability benefits, it’s crucial to have medical evidence that proves your disability. So, it is important to be receiving some kind of medical treatment. And, of course, getting comprehensive medical care is easier and much more affordable if you have health insurance.

Can I apply for disability without a doctor?

Yes, you can apply for disability benefits even if you don’t have a doctor you regularly see. But it’s going to be much more challenging to prove your disabling condition to the SSA. They’ll consider past medical records, but what’s most helpful is up-to-date records — doctor’s notes, treatment logs, and any test results from the past three months.

We recommend regularly seeing both a primary care provider (PCP) and at least one specialist who treats your specific condition. It’s difficult to navigate your way around how to get disability without a doctor.

What is a consultative exam?

If you don’t have enough medical evidence on your disability application, the SSA will likely ask you to do a consultative examination (CE). For this exam, they’ll send you to a disability examiner doctor for a brief appointment to help determine whether you meet the SSA’s definition of disability. 

Consultative exams can be helpful. But in most cases, this exam won’t be enough to get Social Security disability insurance. Consultative exams tend to be quick and surface-level. What you really need for your disability claim are thorough, detailed notes from a personal doctor whom you regularly see. 

Get free advice about your benefits options.

Where to get medical help without insurance

If you cannot work because of a medical condition, affording health insurance premiums or paying for treatment out-of-pocket can be difficult or impossible. However, building up your medical history is crucial to secure disability benefits. 

Consider the following organizations for medical treatment if you’re uninsured:

You can also speak with a social worker or the financial assistance department at a local hospital to get more ideas about where to access low-cost medical treatment and care. Some urgent care centers might offer reduced costs and affordable care for people without insurance. 

In some cases, you might be able to low-cost specialist treatment at an academic medical center. To get benefits, however, working with the same doctor long-term will be most beneficial to build your disability case. 

Find more ideas in our guide that shares housing, healthcare, and legal resources for people with disabilities. 

How a disability lawyer can help

A helpful tip for how to get disability without insurance is to work with a lawyer. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will be able to help you build a timeline of your medical conditions, symptoms, and treatment history to include with your disability application. They can also recommend what medical evidence would be most helpful for your condition and the best way to obtain it. Here at Atticus, we offer free legal advice for people seeking disability. We can also introduce you to a disability lawyer if you’d like. Take our two-minute disability quiz to give us more information about your condition, and give us a call to get started.

Related resources:

Medical Source Statements (MSS): What They Are and When You Need One

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

How to Obtain Your Medical Records for Social Security Benefits

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

Frequently asked questions about qualifying for disability

What conditions qualify for disability benefits?

Any medical condition that leaves you unable to work can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The SSA has a list of common qualifying conditions in the Blue Book. You can also check our full guide to all the conditions that can qualify for disability.

Does my condition affect my disability benefit?

No, the medical condition you have doesn’t affect how much you get from SSDI or SSI. Where you live also doesn’t impact your check size.

How much do SSDI and SSI pay?

SSDI pays up to $3,822 per month, though the average check is about $1,500 in 2024. SSI can pay up to $943 per month in 2024. Read more about how much you can make on SSDI and SSI.

When should I apply for disability benefits?

We recommend applying for benefits as soon as you know you’ll be unable to work. The application process takes a while — a year or longer for the average person. The sooner you submit your application, the sooner you can get your benefits.

Where do I apply for disability benefits?

Apply for Social Security disability benefits online through the SSA website or in-person at your local SSA office. Get step-by-step help in our breakdown of the disability application process.

Do I need a lawyer to apply for disability?

A lawyer isn’t required and you can win benefits without a lawyer. However, the process is complicated and technical — especially when you get to a court hearing. Working with a good lawyer triples your chances of winning an appeal.

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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