1. Home
  2.  → 
  3. Firm News
  4.  → Six Common Myths About Social Security Disability Benefits

Six Common Myths About Social Security Disability Benefits

Injured employee visiting lawyer for advice on insurance.

Obtaining Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be a challenging task. It is no surprise that many people who attempt to obtain these benefits on their own become confused and frustrated by the process. They may quickly start to believe several myths regarding the SSD process.

At Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, Co., L.P.A., we have a dynamic team of highly skilled and experienced attorneys who understand how detrimental misinformation can be when you apply for SSD benefits. Here, we want to set the record straight for six myths that we have often heard over the course of more than three decades assisting people with claims like yours.

1. Your claim will always be denied the first time.

“Always” makes this an inaccurate state. In reality, most SSD benefits claims are initially rejected. Between 2003 and 2012, the percentage of applicants awarded benefits at the initial claims level averaged only 24 percent, ranging from one annual high of 28 percent to a low of 21 percent. So, roughly three out of every four claims that people filed during this period were, in fact, initially rejected.

However, an initial denial should not stop you from continuing to pursue your claim. Realistically, you still have every chance of obtaining the SSD benefits you deserve by appealing the decision. Some people file multiple applications while attempting to finally get SSD benefits. But that is not necessary. Many applicants are successful with the appeal of their denied initial application, and this is especially true when they obtain competent legal help.

2. You cannot claim SSD benefits if you have never worked.

It depends. Generally, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, which translates into work credits that are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. In 2019, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,360 in wages or self-employment income. To qualify, you generally need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you became disabled.

However, the number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age. Those who become disabled especially young may qualify with much fewer credits and under different circumstances altogether.

Additionally, depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Your eligibility for these benefits does not depend on work credits.

3. SSDI benefits are based on your last seven years of earnings.

The Social Security Administration states that SSDI benefits are actually based on lifetime earnings. They are not limited to the seven years prior to the claim. The SSA “indexes” your earnings to account for the changes in your average wages since the year they were received. At that point, the SSA calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years when you had the highest incomes. The SSA then applies a formula to these earnings to arrive at your “primary insurance amount,” or your basic benefit.

4. Your medical condition must be listed in the “Blue Book” to be eligible for SSD benefits.

Even if the mental or physical condition that you suffer from is not found in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, or “Blue Book,” this does not void your eligibility for SSD benefits. In this case, SSA will prepare and consider an assessment of your “residual functional capacity,” or “RFC.”

In conducting this assessment, the SSA will take a look at the nature of your prior employment. It will also consider exactly how your conditions impact your ability to work again in your previous role. If the SSA determines that you cannot work in your previous role, then it will evaluate whether you can work in any other role. This process can include both physical and mental assessments as well as a review of your age, education and specialized skills.

5. You cannot earn any extra income when receiving SSD benefits.

Keep in mind that the purpose of disability benefits is to provide support to a disabled person who is unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. But while earning income above a certain threshold indicates that you are able enough to work and, in turn, ineligible to receive disability benefits, it is still possible to earn money while receiving SSD benefits without affecting them. Your monthly income simply needs to be below the level allowed by the SSA.

6. The SSD application process takes months or years.

This is actually true for the majority of SSD claims, which may take a long period before you learn of the decision on your claim. However, certain claims can be expedited under the Compassionate Allowances program. This program is intended to quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet the standards for disability benefits. These conditions primarily include certain types of cancer, adult brain disorders and a number of rare disorders that affect children. The program affords a much faster decision to applicants after their submission of an application for benefits.

You Should Obtain Legal Help as Soon as Possible.

If you are struggling to understand your right to Social Security Disability benefits, we understand the substantial stress this can place on both you and your family. We have helped many others in similar situations. Even though we cannot do anything to change the system and the lengthy delays, having a skilled disability lawyer on your side can help you to avoid costly mistakes due to misinformation that leads to even longer delays.

Our attorneys have decades of experience with representing disabled claimants before the Social Security Administration. Since 1985, we have helped people throughout the Mahoning Valley to receive the benefits they deserve.

Contact Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., L.P.A., for a free case evaluation and to speak with one of our devoted disability attorneys today. We never charge upfront fees, and we only get paid if we succeed in securing benefits for you. You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain by making the call.