Myths About SSDI & SSI
If you or your loved one is dealing with a disability, it can be difficult to sort through the misinformation and rumors surrounding Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
At Phillips Disability, P.C., we're helping to clear up common myths about SSDI & SSI by giving you the facts about your benefits.
Myths About the Social Security Application Process
FACT: The majority of people do get denied after their first application for Social Security benefits--in some states it is as high as 70%. However, the approval rates go up as people go through the appeals process. More than half of people who go through the hearing and appeals process are eventually approved. In addition, people who have disabilities which are on the Compassionate Allowances Conditions list have much higher approval rates after their initial application than other people who apply.
FACT: No one is automatically qualified for either SSDI or SSI benefits. However, the Social Security Administration maintains a list of illnesses and disabilities called the Compassionate Allowances Conditions list. This list is generally made up of severely disabling conditions which are often fatal. If your condition is listed here, you may qualify for expedited processing and your claim may be approved much quicker than normal.
FACT: You are eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits if you meet the program's requirements. Neither program has a minimum age which makes you more qualified for benefits. If you are disabled, and you can no longer work, or if you have never been able to work because of your condition, then you have the right to apply for benefits. Your disability will be evaluated in the same way regardless of your age.
FACT: There is no requirement that you have an attorney to file an initial claim for benefits. In fact, in all but the highest level of the appeals process, you are able to represent yourself. However, your claim or appeal is much more likely to be approved if you are assisted by a professional like the attorneys at Phillips Disability.
FACT: Nearly all applicants for Social Security benefits submit letters and evaluations from their physicians. In most cases, these letters are short and contain little detail, which makes them practically useless to the SSA. A complete, comprehensive letter from your doctor, however, may provide substantial weight to your claim. But, regardless of how credible your physician's letter is, nothing will guarantee that your claim will be approved.
FACT: You should apply for Social Security benefits as soon as it becomes clear that your impairment will last for at least one continuous year, or will result in death. While there is a five month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance claims, this period is often over by the time your benefits are approved. There is no reason to wait to file your claim once you are sure you meet all of the SSA's requirements.
FACT: Children's disability claims can be difficult to get approved because of the nature of the majority of claims. Many parents apply for benefits for their children based on illnesses and afflictions like ADHD, asthma, or autism spectrum disorders. In all but the most severe cases, it can be very difficult to prove that these conditions rise to the level of disability as defined by the Social Security Administration. Very severe childhood disabilities, such as cancers, Down syndrome, or catastrophic genetic disorders often get approved fairly easily if all other eligibility considerations are met.
FACT: Though it may take extra time to wait for an appeals hearing, appeals are granted at a much higher rate than initial applications or re-applications. It is often in your best interest to hire an attorney and pursue your claim through the appeals process than to file a new claim (which may contain the same problems as the initial claims). If your initial claim has been denied, the Social Security attorneys at Phillips Disability can help you through the appeals process, and give your case the best chance of success.
Myths About Your Benefits
FACT: You are allowed to work limited hours while you are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits, as long as your income is below the Substantial Gainful Activity limit set by Congress. This limit will be set at $1,090 per month for 2015.
FACT: If you think you may be able to work, but are worried you will lose your benefits, you can enter into a trial work period. During this period, you are able to work as much as you like, and your benefits will be waiting for you if you are no longer able to continue working because of your disability. Your disability will only be considered "ended" if you make more than $770 in earnings per month for at least nine months in every 60-month (five year) period. This allows disabled people to try going back to work without having to reapply for benefits.
FACT: While you can collect both workers' compensation payments and SSDI benefits if your disability qualifies for both, your workers' compensation benefits may reduce the amount you receive from SSDI. If you receive both SSDI and workers' compensation, the combined total of these benefits cannot exceed 80% of your pre-injury earnings.
FACT: Nearly every person who collects disability payments would trade them in for a healthy body and mind. Every American who pays taxes contributes to the SSI and SSDI funds, which act as a form of insurance in case they ever become disabled themselves. Never feel guilty about using the benefits you earned by paying your taxes.
FACT: If you were collecting SSDI benefits prior to reaching retirement age, you will not be able to continue collecting both. While the amount of your benefit will remain the same after age 65, your SSDI benefits will be rolled over to your Social Security Retirement, and you will begin drawing your monthly payment from that fund instead.
FACT: This depends on your immigration status. Non-citizens are eligible for SSDI payments if they are permanent residents and have paid into the Social Security system through their wages for the required amount of time. Non-citizens may also be eligible for SSI payments if they are a permanent resident or meet one of the seven categories of qualified aliens. If you are unsure if your immigration status will allow you to apply for Social Security benefits, the experienced attorneys at Phillips Law Disability can help you determine your eligibility.
FACT: Whether or not drug or alcohol use will prevent you from receiving Social Security benefits depends on the nature of your disability. If your drug or alcohol use caused or worsened your illness or impairment, then your claim for benefits will likely be denied. If your drug and alcohol use is unrelated to your condition, or if your condition would not change if you stopped using drugs or alcohol, then a history with substance abuse might not affect the SSA's decision. It should be noted, however, that the SSA will almost always consider drug and alcohol use to be a material, contributing factor to mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
FACT: Most creditors (or people to whom you own money) cannot seize your Social Security benefits as payments for your debts. However, there are some people and organizations who are able to take, or garnish, your benefits. Most notably, if you owe back child support, your benefits can be garnished until you are caught up. Additionally, if you owe back taxes, the IRS or your state income tax collector can also take part of your benefits to satisfy your debts.
Contact Us Today
If your claim for benefits has been denied, you need the facts about your options and your benefits. At Phillips Disability, P.C., our experienced Social Security attorneys will walk you through the benefit claim appeals process, and give you accurate information to help you make the best decisions possible about your benefits.
Need additional help with your Social Security benefits? Call 1-800-503-2000 to speak with our experienced attorneys today!