Top 9 Myths and Misconceptions About Social Security Disability
The Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits lawyers of Hardison & Cochran have dealt with a wide variety of questions when seeking disability benefits for clients in North Carolina.
After all, Jonathan Biser, the head of our Social Security division, is a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law. He has represented numerous clients throughout the state over the course of his career.
Many questions are common. Some are highly unique. Each client’s case is different.
We can’t claim to have dealt with every possible question about disability benefits. However, we have dedicated enough years of service to disabled workers and their families to identify what we believe are the 10 most common myths and misconceptions about the process.
- You need to be disabled for a year before you can apply for SSD benefits.
This is not true. If you are disabled by an injury or illness that has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or more (or to be terminal), you may qualify for SSD benefits. In fact, you should apply for SSD benefits as soon as your doctor advises you that you may not recover from an injury or illness that prevents you from working for a living. The process of applying for and obtaining SSD benefits takes time. If you believe that you are eligible, there is no reason to delay getting started.
- You can’t receive workers’ compensation and SSD benefits at the same time.
Again, this is not the case. If your disability arose from a work injury or illness, you should apply for workers’ compensation immediately. However, if you collect workers’ compensation, your SSD benefits may be reduced. Here’s how this “offset” works:The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your monthly SSD benefits, including benefits payable to your family members. The SSA adds that amount to your workers’ compensation or any other public disability payments you receive. If that amount exceeds 80 percent of your average current earnings, the excess amount will be deducted from your SSD benefits payments. Keep in mind: Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and payments from private insurance or pensions will not count as “offsets.”
- You cannot hold a job of any kind and receive SSD benefits.
This is a very common misconception. Actually, the SSA wants people who receive SSD benefits to work to the best of their ability. Special rules allow people who receive SSD and SSI benefits to work and still receive monthly payments. These are called, “Work Incentives.” But keep in mind: If you earn more than the allowable maximum ($1,070 per month in 2014 or $1,800 if you are blind), you will be ineligible for SSD benefits. You can also work for nine months as a trial work period without any change to your benefits. This is true regardless of how much you earn. The nine months do not have to be consecutive. They can be any accumulation of nine months of work within a 60-month (five-year) period.
- Even if your application was denied, you will get benefits after your hearing.
It’s true that many SSD claims are denied at first and later approved at the hearing level. But a ruling in your favor from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is in no way at all “automatic.” You need to make sure all up-to-date records are provided to the ALJ. You need prepare your case for the hearing. You also need to present your case clearly and completely to the ALJ. For these reasons, it can be crucial to work with an experienced attorney at the hearing stage.
- You must be close to retirement age to receive disability benefits.
This is not true, either. The SSD program is not a retirement program. Instead, it is a program for people who cannot work because they suffer from a qualifying physical or mental disability. However, the amount of benefits you receive is based on your contributions to the Social Security trust fund. You contribute when Social Security taxes are taken out of your earnings. In that sense, older workers may possibly receive higher payments than younger workers.
- If your medical condition is not in the “Blue Book,” you won’t receive benefits.
This is another myth. It’s important to know what the “Blue Book” is and the role it plays in determining if you suffer from a qualifying disability. The “Blue Book” is a listing of mental and physical impairments. It describes impairments that are considered severe enough to prevent a person from doing any gainful activity. If you suffer from an impairment that meets the “Blue Book” criteria or is equal in severity to a listed impairment, it usually establishes that you are disabled and qualify for SSD benefits. If your impairment is not listed, the SSA will need to determine if your condition interferes with your ability to do the work you did before or prevents you from doing any other type of work. If so, then you may still qualify for SSD benefits.
- If you have ever used drugs or drunk too much alcohol, you will be denied SSD benefits.
This is not true. However, you need to be aware that the people making a decision on your claim will determine if your drug or alcohol use is, in fact, a contributing factor to your disability. If substance abuse has contributed to it, your claim could be denied.We always advise clients to consider their health, family and future. We advise them to stop using drugs or alcohol and to seek substance abuse counseling if needed.
- Once you obtain SSD benefits, you are considered permanently disabled.
This is a commonly held myth. It comes from the fact that, if you are approved for SSD benefits, you could possibly continue to receive benefits for life. However, the SSA will review your case. If it is determined that you no longer meet the SSA’s strict definition of “disability,” your benefits will end. There are two ways this could happen:
- You go back to work and your average earnings are $1,070 per month or more ($1,800 or more if you are blind).
- Your medical condition improves to the point that you are no longer disabled. Remember: You are responsible for promptly reporting any improvement in your condition.
- Hiring a lawyer to help you with a SSD benefits claim costs too much.
This is not true. The law actually limits what a lawyer can charge for representing you in your SSD benefits case. The law also requires that fees be contingency based. This means that your lawyer cannot charge you legal fees unless you are awarded past-due SSD benefits. Once you are awarded SSD benefits, the lawyer’s fee is limited to 25 percent of the total amount of past-due benefits you are granted. This amount is capped at $6,000.Please note that your attorney may also charge you for certain out-of-pocket expenses required to pursue your case, such as postage and copying.
Contact a Raleigh SSD Attorney
When you hire a Hardison & Cochran SSD benefits lawyer in North Carolina, you will enter into a written fee agreement. This agreement must be approved by the SSA.
From the start, we will make you aware of all fees and charges we expect of you. There will be no surprises.
We never charge for initial consultations. To learn more, contact us today. We will respond within 24 hours.
For More Information:
- Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability Benefits, Social Security Administration
- Work Incentives, Social Security Administration
- Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, Social Security Administration
- Disability Planner: How Much Work Do You Need? Social Security Administration
- Disability Planner: What Can Cause Benefits To Stop? Social Security Administration
- Representation of Claimants, Social Security Administration