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There are a lot of misconceptions and myths about the Social Security Disability program. If you have applied or are thinking of applying, it is a good idea to separate fact from fiction. Hopefully, the information provided here can help.
Social Security Disability has two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income Benefits (SSI). Knowing the difference between these programs and understanding what you are entitled to is key to navigating both programs.
SSDI benefits are paid to a person or certain family members who are disabled and have worked long enough – and recently enough – to qualify. SSI pays benefits to disabled individuals with a very limited work history (or no work history) and children with disabilities who meet certain income requirements. Basically, SSI is a needs-based program for disabled individuals with no work in their past who don’t have any resources.
Myth #1: It is easy to get benefits
Many people have the misperception that it is easy to get SSDI or SSI benefits and that lots of people receive them. This simply is not the case. According to the Social Security Administration, roughly 12 million Americans, out of about 325 million total Americans, receive SSI or SSDI benefits.
Also, there are very few fraudulent cases. The SSA says that they go after fraud and only about 1 percent of total claims are fraudulent.
Myth #2: You need to be disabled for one year before you can apply for benefits
While your disability or illness should be expected to last at least one year, you do not need to wait to apply. In fact, you should apply as soon as your doctor recommends it so you don’t experience unnecessary delays. The application process can take awhile.
Myth #3: You can’t get worker’s compensation benefits and SSDI or SSI benefits concurrently
You can absolutely get both types of benefits provided your disability is from a work injury or illness. You probably already know you need to apply for worker’s compensation immediately. You also need to understand that your SSDI benefits will likely be reduced, or “offset”, if you are also receiving worker’s compensation.
Myth #4: You can’t work if you get benefits
This is a big myth. You can absolutely work if you are able to and the SSA encourages people to do what they can by providing incentives to work. However, there are limits on how much you can earn and still be eligible under the program (roughly $1300 per month). Further, the SSA’s program offers a trial period of nine months where you can make more than the wage limit to see how you tolerate work and there will be no change to your benefits during that time. Be very careful if you do attempt to work while on disability benefits. You will need to let the SSA know exactly what you are doing and stay in contact with someone at your local office so there is no confusion with your benefits. If the SSA pays you during a period where your work activity renders you ineligible for benefits, there will be an overpayment and the SSA will ask that that money be reimbursed.
Myth #5: If I get benefits, I’m considered permanently disabled
This myth is very commonly believed and it simply isn’t true. Your case will be reviewed by the SSA and if you no longer meet the criteria, you will stop receiving benefits. This generally happens for one of two reasons: You go back to work and your earnings exceed the wage limit or your medical condition improves and you are no longer disabled.
If you are considering applying for SSA benefits, one of the best steps you can take is to find yourself a qualified attorney to help you navigate the system.
Connor Kimmet and Hafenstein LLP
If you have questions about Social Security Disability, our expert attorneys can help you. We have a lawyer who will work for you and can answer your questions!