10 Myths About Social Security Disability

As an attorney whose practice concentrates on Social Security Disability cases, I’ve heard clients say all kinds of things that are not only just plain wrong but could also negatively impact their cases. Here are 10 myths about Social Security Disability:

1. “The person at the Social Security office told me … “
What an employee at the office says may or may not be true. But if it’s not in writing, there’s no way to prove what was said. GET IT IN WRITING.

2. “My doctor told me …”
A doctor’s diagnosis and records are part of the official record. If the doctor didn’t write it down, he didn’t say it. Again, GET IT IN WRITING.

3. “My application was denied, so I may as well give up. I must not be disabled after all.” 
Perhaps the application was missing critical information, or an important deadline was missed. Do NOT give up. File an appeal and have a judge hear the case.

4. “Well, my doctor said I can’t do my job anymore. He even wrote me a note saying I’m disabled. So that means I’m entitled to disability benefits.” 
Just because someone can’t do a past job doesn’t mean they can’t do any job. The Social Security Administration evaluates an applicant’s age, education, and work experience to determine what jobs the claimant can or cannot do.
In addition, a doctor does not necessarily know what the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled” is (LINK to eligibility page), nor do they necessarily know the various factors that go into determining a person’s eligibility for benefits. Moreover, the SSA doesn’t consider a doctor’s opinion as to whether someone can work, but accepts the opinion as to a person’s restrictions, such as how much a person can lift.

5. “The people at the Social Security office thought that while I was applying for benefits, I could work at least a little bit.” 
Working at any job can be used as evidence of ability to work. There are numerous rules about working while applying for benefits. The employees at that SSA district office may be providing incomplete information on the Social Security Administration’s rules on working.

6. “Why do I need a lawyer? I can just go apply on my own.”
It’s nearly always better to have a lawyer, because the government will not protect your rights as a lawyer will. Given the complexity of Social Security Disability cases — deadlines, requirements, and medical records — and given the hundreds of pages of regulations, and sometimes conflicting court opinions interpreting those regulations, it’s best to have a lawyer looking out for you. A lawyer helps at all levels of the process, from application through appeals. Moreover, a lawyer will handle all the paperwork, collect the medical records, speak to the Social Security Administration on your behalf, and prepare you for any hearings.

7. “I am really disabled so my case will go quickly.”
Social Security Disability cases are complicated and involve a number of detailed steps, including compilation of medical records and attending hearings. Moreover, the Social Security Administration is facing the highest number of pending cases and highest average case processing times since the inception of the disability programs, according to the “Congressional Response Report” dated August 2008, and compiled by the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General. As of August 2008, the average time frame in Chicago was 563 days, compared with the national average of 512. In Springfield, Mass., the time frame was an average 354 days.

8. “I thought I’d wait and see how bad my condition gets before I apply for benefits, but my daughter told me to come in now.”
Don’t wait! Claimants can only receive SSDI benefits for the one year preceding the filing date, and SSI benefits only from the application date. Those who wait could lose benefits to which they are entitled.

9. “Everybody knows that this (asthma/diabetes/other ailment) is what’s wrong with me, so I don’t need to go to the doctor anymore.”
Medical records and ongoing medical care are an important requirement for receiving disability benefits. Without current, consistent medical information, there is no case.

10. “What if I get better? I thought Social Security Disability is only for people who will never be able to work again.”
Disability benefits go to those who have been or are expected to be disabled for at least 12 months or more. The SSA does have work incentive programs to encourage people who have recovered from their disabilities to return to work. Those who have received disability benefits for at least a year have a trial period of nine months during which they can receive full benefits, regardless of earnings.

Contact Neil H. Good for a free case evaluation 
Don’t trust your case to just any attorney. Given the complexity of SSD and SSI cases, it’s best to work with an attorney who concentrates in this work. Remember, it’s in your best interest to have an attorney who knows and can successfully navigate the SSD system. Attorney Neil H. Good has years of experience in handling SSD and SSI cases in the Chicago area, with successful results at all levels of the claims process.
Don’t go it alone. Having an advocate may be the difference between success and failure.