Common Misunderstandings When it Comes to Disability Benefits

Disability can feel like an overwhelming and overly complex process. Here are some common myths/misconceptions about different parts of Social Security Disability:

Everyone gets denied disability, so it’s not even worth it for you to apply.

It is true that Social Security denies approximately 65% of disability claimants after their initial application, however, there is no conspiracy that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a policy or formula to deny most applicants after their first application. Most disability claims are denied because they lack solid medical evidence, so if you want to qualify for disability benefits, you will need to prove that you are unable to work due to your disabling condition. This involves getting your doctor on board and making sure they are documenting not only your complaints/symptoms but also the fact that these symptoms or pain interfere with your ability to work.

Your doctor wrote in your medical records that you shouldn’t go back to work, so you think you should be approved for disability.

Your doctor simply stating in your chart that your condition keeps you from working will not be enough evidence to SSA that you should be granted disability benefits. Your doctor must document your symptoms, pain, etc., to demonstrate to SSA that your condition keeps you from being able to participate in any income-producing activities. Not only that, but your medical records need to include how long you have experienced these symptoms, what medications or treatments you have tried and your reaction to them, and how long your condition is expected to last. The more thorough and complete your medical records are, the better chance your application has of being approved.

If you become disabled by a rare or serious disease, you’ll still have to wait in the long line with all the other applicants.

This is not the case. Social Security maintains a list of conditions called Compassionate Allowances, which was created to expedite disability benefits for people with rare and life-threatening diseases.  There are over 200 medical conditions on the Compassionate Allowances list, which gets evaluated and updated annually. If you have a condition that falls on the Compassionate Allowance List, your initial claim will automatically be flagged by the SSA and could be processed in as little as 10 days.

You must be off work for a year before applying for disability.

You do have to be unable to perform any work duties, but you don’t necessarily have to be unable to work for a year before you can apply. Your application must show that your physical or mental condition will last at least 12 months or result in death. If you can demonstrate through your application and medical documentation that your condition will endure for at least one year, then you can apply for Social Security Disability.

Once you’re approved, if you try to go back to work, Social Security will medically review your case and you could lose your benefits.

Social Security reviews your medical condition occasionally to determine whether you are still disabled, using a process called the medical Continuing Disability Review, or Medical CDR. Generally, you know how frequently these reviews will be conducted when you are first approved for benefits. Starting back to work does not trigger a new review period.

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