The topic of Social Security is rife with confusion, especially the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) program. Who is eligible for benefits? How much can you receive? How do you qualify for benefits? These are just a few of the questions that surround SSDI benefits and the process for filing a claim. In this post, we’ll address some of the many myths about Social Security disability and give you the facts you need to understand the SSDI landscape.
1. I obviously have a disability so I shouldn’t need a disability lawyer to help me get my benefits.
Contrary to popular opinion, the eligibility requirements for Social Security disability are very strict. An obvious disability is only the beginning—you also must meet narrowly defined disability requirements and prepare and present a strong case to prove your eligibility, including filing your claim properly. Experienced Social Security disability lawyers know the pitfalls that are inherent in the filing process and how to work through them. At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., we will gladly review the details of your claim and provide a free, no-obligation consultation to help you understand your legal options.
2. Every Social Security disability claim is denied at first.
A large number of initial claims are denied, but there is not a policy of automatically denying every first claim. An initial denial doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to benefits or that your future filings will also be denied, but you may be able to shorten the lengthy claims approval process by having an expert Social Security lawyer at your side to help with your first claim or an appeal. We can make sure that your documentation is in order and that your filing satisfies the Social Security Administration’s stringent requirements to help increase your chances of having your claim approved.
3. I haven’t been out of work due to disability for a year so I can’t apply for SSDI benefits.
This is a common myth. The actual requirement is that your disability must be expected to last for at least a year. We advise our clients not to wait to apply for benefits if they have a physical or mental disability that prevents them from working full time. Because the claim approval process takes so long (even when everything is in perfect order), it’s important to file your application as soon as you can.
4. I can’t go back to work and keep getting Social Security disability benefits.
According to the Social Security Administration’s website, “Yes, you can return to work while receiving Social Security disability benefits. We have special rules to help you get back to work without jeopardizing your initial benefits. You may be able to have a trial work period for nine months to test whether you can work.” You do, however, need to notify the administration if your condition improves or you go back to work.
5. Social Security disability benefits will replace the income from my job.
Many federal programs, such as Social Security Disability, are intended to be a safety net to help Americans bridge an income gap. Although your own benefits amount will vary, beneficiaries of SSDI receive between $700 and $1,700 a month. There is also a Supplemental Security Income program for people with limited income, but in general, Social Security Disability benefits may meet your basic needs but will not replace 100 percent of the income you had prior to becoming disabled.
6. All I have to do to qualify for Social Security disability is to have my doctor say I have a disability.
In effect, the decision to approve disability benefits is a legal rather than a medical one. Your doctor cannot make the decision as to whether you are qualified to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, your doctor will have an important role in a successful application for benefits—he or she must provide detailed information about your condition and be considered a credible medical professional. That information will be a critical part of the ultimate decision, which is made by the Social Security Administration.
7. Once my benefits claim is approved, I’ll have SSDI benefits for life.
The Social Security Disability Planner provides these details regarding continuing eligibility:
- Your benefits will continue as long as you are disabled, but your case will be reviewed at times to verify that you have remained disabled.
- If your medical improvement is considered “expected,” your case may be reviewed within six to 18 months after the start of your benefits.
- If your improvement is considered “possible,” your case may be reviewed no sooner than three years.
- If your improvement is deemed “not expected,” your case may not be reviewed until seven or more years after your benefits started.
Note that your Social Security disability benefits may stop if you have “substantial” earnings, which is currently an average of $1,220 per month, or if the Social Security Administration decides that your condition has improved to a point that you are no longer disabled.
8. My Social Security disability benefits will be based only on my last few years of earnings.
This is another common misconception because benefits are actually based on your lifetime earnings. There are adjustments that the Social Security Administration makes to your earnings, however, and a formula by which it calculates an average indexed monthly earnings figure based on 35 years of your earnings. You can learn more about this on the Social Security Administration’s Disability Benefits Planner web page.
Has Your Social Security Disability Claim Been Denied?
It’s an unfortunate fact that more than 90 percent of initial appeals are denied, with a mere 18 percent of denied applicants continuing to pursue benefits. One reason so few applicants continue is the complexity of the Social Security disability appeals process, which involves a new review of any evidence you have already provided and any additional evidence you submit as part of your appeal. The lengthy process of appealing a denial may result in yet another denial, after which you may appeal further and ask for a review by an appeals council. If that request for a hearing is refused or denied, you have the right to take your case to federal court.
This process highlights how important it is to consult a qualified and experienced Social Security lawyer before you file your initial claim. At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., our attorneys can help you with your claim for Social Security Disability Income and/or Supplemental Security Income. Although the chances of having your claim denied is high, we can help you determine if moving forward with your claim is worthwhile. Our Social Security disability lawyers can help you through every stage of the process, from reviewing your medical records and recommending additional medical testing that strengthens your claim, to presenting your case in the most advantageous way and representing you during reviews in federal court.
Schedule your no-cost consultation today.
Whether you are about to file your first claim for Social Security disability benefits or are considering appealing a denied claim, Harrell & Harrell, P.A., is here to help. Call us today at 904-251-1111 or 800-251-1111 or contact us now with your questions or to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with our Social Security disability attorneys.