Social Security Disability Benefits: Separating Truth from Fiction

How much of what I’ve heard about SSDI is actually true?

Many people who have become disabled wonder if they are qualified to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and whether it is worth applying for benefits. The best person to answer this and other related questions is a thoroughly knowledgeable disability attorney. Here is a list of fact-checking replies to some of the myths you may have heard. Of course, it is essential that you actually meet with a lawyer who specializes in the field to explore your unique situation and personal options.

Not many people actually become disabled during their working years

Actually, according to the Social Security Administration, one in every four 20-year-old workers will become disabled before they arrive at retirement age.

I’ve heard that the rate of denial of claims is so high that I shouldn’t even bother applying

Although there is a high rate of denial, approximately 33 percent of those who apply for benefits receive them the first time around. In addition, many more applicants receive relief on appeal, particularly when they have the support of a capable lawyer.

I’ve been told that if I receive SSDI I will be receiving an income similar to what I earned while working

This is a blatant falsehood unless you were grossly underpaid at your last job. As of 2015, the Social Security benefit paid an average monthly benefit of about $1100 per month or about $13,000 annually. This payment is meant to help you meet basic living needs, but for most people it will barely cover housing costs.

I understand that once I begin receiving benefits I will not be able to work anymore

In fact you can return to work while collecting SSDI benefits. Your attorney will be able to guide you through the process of testing your work capabilities during a 9 month trial period.

If my doctor affirms that I’m disabled, I will definitely qualify for benefits, right?

No. The SSDI decision is legal rather than medical, though if you are applying for benefits your treating physician will have to provide the government with detailed information about your health.

Once I’m awarded SSDI benefits, I will have them for the rest of my life

Not necessarily. Your medical condition will be periodically reviewed. Your first review will be 6 to 18 months after the date you became disabled. Depending upon whether your condition is expected to improve, future reviews may occur once every 3 to 7 years.

Now that I’m unable to work, if I apply for benefits quickly, I will receive payments promptly.

Don’t kid yourself. The Social Security Department, like other government agencies, is cumbersome and bureaucratic, so don’t expect that a check will be in the mail any time soon. Processing usually takes up to 6 months, but SSDI payments will be retroactive to the date of your disability onset.