Filing a claim for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) can be a complicated process. Since most people aren’t likely to look into it until they need it, few know how to make their way through the system. At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., our Social Security disability lawyers can help with a no-cost, no-obligation review of your disability claim and advise you on your legal options.
Because of the system’s complexity, there are a number of misconceptions that persist about applying for SSDI benefits. These may cause applicants to hesitate in challenging a denial of benefits. Here are some of the most common myths:
Myth #1: Everyone’s claim is denied at first.
It’s true that, nationally, more initial claims are denied than are approved, but applications are not automatically denied and the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a blanket policy that dictates denial.
More specifically, the SSA’s statistical report from 2015 shows that, from 1999 to 2014, more than a third of applicants were approved each year on the first try, with a few years having figures of about half of applications being approved on the first attempt.
Once an initial claim has been denied, continuing to file new applications—rather than an appeal—is not likely to result in an approval. Applicants can appeal their case within a 60-day window, the SSA will then look again at the entire decision (meaning, not just the parts of disagreement). There are, in fact, four appeal levels: reconsideration; administrative law judge hearing; appeals council review; and federal court review.
Myth #2: I can’t work if I’m collecting benefits.
According to the SSA, there are special rules that “make it possible for people receiving Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly benefits.” Besides allowing cash benefits to continue for a period, it’s also possible for someone to receive Medicare or Medicaid benefits while working. In addition, there are work incentive programs available to help qualified people with “education, training, and rehabilitation to start a new line of work.”
Each situation is unique and it’s important to successfully navigate the system. SSA uses a term called “substantial gainful activity,” for example, that helps to determine if a person’s ability to earn an income is too high to qualify for benefits. Note how this benchmark is adjusted annually; this means that a person who earned too much in the past may qualify today.
It can also be helpful to talk to your medical care providers to gather and document information about how your medical condition limits your abilities. This may provide insight into whether you could potentially qualify for SSDI and still work.
Myth #3: My physician says I’m disabled, so I’m sure to qualify.
While information from your physician is part of the medical evidence necessary for approval, he or she does not make the decision. Approval or denial is entirely up to the SSA because, although health considerations are at the core of SSDI decisions, awarding benefits is ultimately a legal determination, not a medical diagnosis.
When deciding if an applicant has the ability to maintain gainful employment, the SSA can take multiple factors into account, including a person’s age and education. Other considerations are the skills that could be transferable and what’s called a person’s residual functional capacity (RFC).
As mentioned in myth #2, it is true that having detailed documentation from your primary care physician and overall medical team can be quite helpful in the pursuit of SSDI.
Myth #4: I won’t be eligible for SSDI benefits until I’ve been disabled for 12 months.
The SSA states that in order to be considered “disabled,” applicants’ The SSA states that, in order to be considered “disabled,” applicants’ disability “must result from a medically determinable mental or physical impairment that is expected to last for a continuous period of 12 months” or expected to result in an early death. For example, if you have had a medical disability for only six months, the expectation that your condition will last for at least 12 consecutive months may mean that you could currently be eligible for SSDI benefits.
Myth #5: A lawyer can’t help if my claim has been denied.
If your claim is denied, a common course of action is to file an appeal. Although there’s no requirement that says you need an attorney in order to file an appeal, an experienced Social Security lawyer can assist you in navigating the process. The attorneys at Harrell & Harrell, P.A., will ensure that your case is properly prepared for a hearing, and that you are prepared as well.
Persistence can often be rewarded in the pursuit of benefits, 81 percent of applicants who went through the entire appeals process, including the federal court level, had their applications approved. Disability benefits were awarded for them and in some cases included back pay for the months in which the appeals process was taking place.
Choosing Legal Council With Harrell & Harrell, P.A.
The application and appeals processes for obtaining benefits can be confusing. We offer free consultations with an expert Social Security disability lawyer from our firm. If we move forward with your claim, our attorneys will help to prepare you for any hearings, including a conversation about what questions you’ll likely be asked.
These can include information about your symptoms and limitations, and when you could no longer work because of your medical condition. During a hearing, you may also be asked to provide a list of your doctors, what medications and treatments you’ve tried, and so forth.
If you need legal assistance in seeking Social Security disability benefits or disability income, call us at 904-251-1111 or toll-free at 1-800-251-1111 for a free consultation.