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  • Christopher Le

14 Social Security Disability Myths From a Disability Attorney

Attorney Christopher Le has dealt with a wide variety of questions when seeking disability benefits for clients in Texas. Weve been asked many different questions during our years of practice and 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. You need to be disabled for a full year before you can apply for SSD benefits. Not true. If you are disabled by an injury or illness that has lasted or IS EXPECTED TO LAST for 12 months or more, you may qualify for SSD benefits. For example, the common cold or flu is not expected to last a year but heart disease, liver disease, chronic back pain, all could be expected to last up to a year or more. You should apply for social security disability benefits the moment you or your doctor believes you may no longer be able to work. Its best to ask seek advice from your doctor but if you truly believe you do not have the capability of working in any kind of capacity, you should consider applying. The process of applying for disability is lengthy. You should file as soon as you recognize that going back to work may not be likely.

  2. You cannot receive workers compensation and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time. This is not always the case. If your disability arose from a work injury, you should file for workers’ compensation benefits immediately. However, if you do collect workers’ compensation benefits, your SSD benefits may be reduced. Social security will essentially offset the amount that you are receiving in workers compensation benefits. Here’s how this “offset” works:The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your monthly SSD benefits. SSA adds that amount to the workers’ compensation benefits youre receiving. If that amount exceeds 80 percent of your average current earnings, the excess amount will be deducted from your SSD benefits payments.

  3. You cannot work in any kind of capacity and also receive SSD benefits. This is a common misconception. In fact, certain rules allow people who receive SSD and SSI benefits to work and still receive monthly payments. These are called, “Work Incentives.”But its important to note: If you earn more than the allowable maximum ($1,260 per month in 2020) you will be ineligible for SSD benefits. Your benefits wont automatically cease if you work one or two months earning $1070, but if you are working on a consistent basis, you risk suspension of benefits. You can also work for nine months as a trial work period without any change to your benefits, regardless of how much you earn. This is called a nine month trial work period. The nine months do not have to be consecutive. They can be any accumulation of nine months of work within a 60-month (five-year) period.

  4. The Judge will automatically approve me once he hears my case. Many SSD claims are denied at the initial stages and later approved at the hearing level. But a favorable decision from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is in no way “automatic.” Its important to provide the ALJ all relevant medical evidence. You will need to make an opening statement as well as a strong closing argument. Medical opinions or RFC's from your doctor could also helpy your case. This is why its crucial to work with an experienced attorney at the hearing stage.

  5. You must be close to retirement age to receive disability benefits. This is definitely not true. You can be of almost any age and file for social security disability. The SSD program is not a retirement program. In fact, its a program for those people who can no longer work in any kind of capacity due to their physical or mental impairments. The amount of benefits you receive is based on your contributions to the Social Security trust fund. So if you were a higher wage earner in your working years, you will likely receive a higher monthly benefit amount than someone that was not a high wage earner. The more Social Security taxes are taken out of your earnings, the higher your benefit amount will be.

  6. If your medical condition is not in the “Blue Book,” you won’t receive benefits. Again, not true. You may be asking, whats the Blue Book? The “Blue Book” is a listing of mental and physical impairments. It lists impairments that are considered severe enough to prevent a person from working in any kind of capacity .If you suffer from an impairment that meets the “Blue Book” criteria, it usually establishes that you are disabled and qualify for SSD benefits. The criteria to meet a Blue Book listing is stringent and many cases do not meet that criteria. But do not worry, that is not the only way to prove youre disabled. Even if your impairment is not listed in the Blue Book, SSA will need to determine if your condition affects your ability to do your past work or prevents you from doing any other kind of work in the national economy. If so, then you will qualify for SSD benefits.

  7. If you have ever used drugs or alcohol, you will be denied SSD benefits. Not always true. Its important to know that the people making a decision on your claim will determine if your drug or alcohol use is a "contributing factor" to your disability. For example, if you suffer from depression and your use to drugs or alcohol contribute to the worsening of your depression, that's considered a contributing factor and will negatively affect your case and your claim could be denied. Its best to cease the use of any drugs or alcohol and to seek substance abuse counseling if needed.

  8. Once you obtain SSD benefits, you are considered permanently disabled forever. This is a common myth. Many believe that once you are approved for social security disability benefits, you will receive benefits for life. Although this is the case for many people, this doesnt apply to all. SSA may randomly review your case. Sometimes they review cases every few years, sometimes they never review your case. If they review your case and its determined that you no longer meet the SSA’s strict definition of “disability,” your benefits could end. There are two ways your SSD benefits could end: 1. You go back to work and your average earnings are $1,260 per month or more. Or 2. Your medical condition improves to the point that you are no longer disabled.

  9. Hiring a disability lawyer costs too much. The lawyer only gets paid if you are approved. The lawyer will earn no fee if you are not approved. This means the lawyer works on a contingency basis. In addition, the law actually limits what a lawyer can charge for representing you in your SSD benefits case. Once you are awarded SSD benefits, the lawyer’s fee is limited to 25 percent of the total amount of past-due benefits or $6000, whichever is less.

  10. I obviously have a disability so I dont need a disability lawyer to help me get my benefits. Contrary to popular opinion, the eligibility requirements for Social Security disability are very strict. The majority of cases are in fact denied. An obvious disability is only the beginning, you must also meet narrowly defined disability requirements and present a strong case to prove your disability, including filing your claim and all necesary paperwork properly.

  11. Every Social Security disability claim is denied at first. Although a large number of initial claims are denied, about 15% are approved. But just because you received an initial denial doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to social security disability benefits or that your appeals will also be denied. You may be able to shorten the lengthy claims approval process by having an experienced attorney at your side. We make sure that your information and documentation is in order and that your application satisfies the Social Security Administration’s stringent requirements to help boost your chances of success.

  12. Social Security disability benefits will replace the lost income from my job. Although that would be ideal, its not true. Social security will provide an income but it likely wont match the money you once made. Social Security Disability is intended to be a safety net for Americans. Although everyones benefit amount will be different, on average beneficiaries of SSDI benefits receive between $1000 and $2000 a month. There is also a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for people with limited resources. The maximum monthly benefit under the SSI program is $790. So as you can see, Social Security Disability benefits may meet your basic needs but unfortunately will not replace 100 percent of your income.

  13. All I have to do to qualify for Social Security disability is to have my doctor say I have a disability. If this were the case, everyone would be receiving disability but again, not always the case. The decision to approve disability benefits is a legal rather than a medical one. Although your doctor can notate your limitations and restrictions, your doctor unfortunately cant make the decision as to whether you are qualified to receive Social Security disability benefits. This is up to the disability examiner or the administrative law judge (ALJ). However, your doctor does play an important role in a successful application for benefits. Its important your doctor provides detailed information about your condition and be considered a credible medical professional. Medical records and documentation make up your claim. Its the main reason people are approved and accounts for a large majority as to why a claim is approved. The medical records will be a critical part of the ultimate decision, which is made by the Social Security Administration.

  14. My Social Security disability benefits will be based only on my last few years of earnings. This is another myth. Social Security disability benefits are actually based on your lifetime earnings. There are adjustments that the Social Security Administration makes to your earnings and a formula by which it calculates an average indexed monthly earnings figure based on 35 years of your earnings.

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