Social Security Disability is a great program that helps millions of disabled Americans each year. If you’re disabled, securing the benefits you need may seem difficult; after all, more than two thirds of initial applications are denied. If you’ve seen statistics like this one before and are feeling discouraged from applying, don’t be! There’s also a lot of misinformation about Social Security disability benefits, and you may actually be more qualified than you think. Here are the top 12 myths about Social Security disability:
1. I Must Be Disabled for 12 Months Before I Can Apply
Although you must prove that your disability will last at least 12 months or end in death, you can apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. There is no waiting requirement to apply for disability once you become disabled.
2. If My Doctor Said That I Cannot Work, Then I Will Be Approved for Disability
It can certainly help your case when your doctor has stated in writing that you are unable to work. However, the Social Security Administration looks at all evidence to determine if you are disabled or not. If your doctor’s opinion is inconsistent with the rest of the evidence, then your doctor’s opinion may not help you get approved for disability.
3. If I Cannot Return to Work in My Old Job, Then I Will Be Found Disabled
The Social Security Administration’s definition of disability is that your medical condition prevents you from performing any substantial gainful activity for at least 12 months. Therefore, you have to prove that you are disabled from performing all jobs, not just your old jobs.
4. I Can’t Get Approved for Disability Benefits Until I Reach 50 Years Old
While it is true that it may help to be age 50 or older for the purposes of your disability claim, you do not necessarily have to be age 50 to qualify for Social Security disability. In addition to age, it depends on your impairments, education, work history, and transferable job skills. The Social Security Administration’s Medical-Vocational Guidelines state that if an individual over age 50 has a history of physically demanding work and no transferable work skills to perform lighter work, then they may be found disabled. If you are over age 50 and you meet the requirements of the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, then you have a better chance of being approved for disability benefits.
5. My Friend’s Disability Claim Was Approved Right Away, So Mine Will Be As Well
As mentioned above, the Social Security Administration evaluates many different factors when determining if you are disabled. The statistics show that the percentage of applicants awarded benefits at the initial claims level averaged 24 percent from 2004-2013. Therefore, less than a fourth of all claims are approved initially.
6. If My Case Is Denied, I Will Soon Have a Disability Hearing Before a Judge
You are entitled to have a disability hearing, but the wait time is considerable. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of people are waiting for a disability hearing nationwide. If your claim is denied initially, then you must file two appeals before you can have an administrative hearing. From the time that you request your hearing, the average wait time is over a year for almost every disability hearing office.
7. I Will Have My Hearing Sooner Because I Am In a Bad Financial Situation
Although some cases are granted an expedited hearing, this is somewhat rare. You can possibly have your hearing sooner than normal if you establish that 1) you are without food and are unable to obtain it, 2) you lack medicine or medical care and are unable to obtain it, or 3) you lack shelter and have become homeless.
There are several other exceptions that allows the Social Security Administration to process your case faster, such as a terminal illness, 100 percent permanent and total disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Military Casualty/Wounded Warrior case, diseases and medical conditions that qualify for compassionate allowances, or potentially violent cases.
8. Those Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol Are Approved for Disability Benefits
In many cases, drug use or alcoholism will actually hinder a disability claim. But if an individual who uses drugs or alcohol can show that they are disabled for reasons other than drug or alcohol use, then they can still be found disabled. In addition, if the long term effects of drug or alcohol use are irreversible despite complete sobriety, then the person can be found disabled.
9. I Cannot Apply for Disability Benefits Because I Have Never Worked
If you have never worked, your work history is minimal, or you worked in the distant past, then there is still a chance that you can be eligible for disability benefits. If you are disabled and have limited financial resources, then you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Keep in mind that your spouse’s income can disqualify you for SSI eligibility. Children may also be eligible for SSI if their parents’ financial resources are limited.
10. I Don’t Need an Attorney to Win My Disability Claim
An experienced disability attorney can significantly improve your chances of being approved. From the outset of your disability claim, an attorney can assist you with your disability application and file your appeals if you are denied. The attorney will also obtain supportive evidence and communicate with your doctors’ offices to ensure that no important evidence is missing from your claim. Finally, an attorney will represent you at your hearing before a judge, present oral and written legal analysis, and cross-examine experts that testify at your hearing.
11. All Disability Advocates Are Licensed Attorneys
Some national companies send non-attorneys to represent disabled claimants at their administrative hearings. At Keller & Keller, a licensed lawyer will meet or talk with you before your hearing, and represent you at your hearing. In the event that your claim is denied by an administrative judge, then Keller & Keller’s attorneys can possibly help you with an appeal to the Appeals Council or U.S. District Court.
12.I Cannot Apply for Social Security Disability Because I Already Receive Long Term Disability or VA Benefits
This is not true. A person can apply for both long term disability insurance and Social Security disability benefits if they become disabled. Similarly, a person can apply for and receive both VA disability and Social Security disability benefits at the same time. In fact, a favorable decision from an insurance company or the VA may improve your chances of being approved for Social Security disability benefits.
If you are disabled from working and would like to speak with an attorney about your disability claim, contact Keller & Keller for a free consultation. You do not owe us an attorney fee unless we are successful in getting your disability benefits paid. Call 1-800-253-5537 to set-up your free consultation.