Filing for Social Security disability benefits is usually never an easy process, but there are several steps you can take to make the process easier. Your Social Security disability application is the key to receiving benefits, so it’s crucial to make sure that your claim is complete with medical evidence and required applicant information to prevent a denied claim.
Avoid These Mistakes When Applying for SSDI
- Continuing to Work
- Providing Incomplete Information
- Lack of Proofreading
- Collecting Unemployment While Waiting for Benefits
- Failing to Follow Doctor’s Orders
- Not Switching Doctors When Needed
- Not Listing Complete Symptoms
- Not Filing for Secondary Conditions
- Failing to Check the Status of Your Claim
- Missing Deadlines
- Giving Up
- Not Hiring a Social Security Disability Attorney
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two types of Social Security benefits that can help you or a loved one with a disability. They both require a lengthy application process that requires disability applicants to furnish information about themselves, their disability, their work, and more.
As a Social Security disability benefits claimant, you have the responsibility to ensure that you fill out your disability claim application correctly. Because there are many steps involved in the application process, it’s common to make SSDI claim mistakes resulting in a denial. Your awareness of the most common SSDI claim mistakes could be what prevents rejection in your disability case.
Before you apply for SSDI or SSI benefits, read through some of these common mistakes that could result in a disability denial and extend the length of time it takes to begin receiving benefits. Although you may be eligible for SSDI back pay once the SSA approves your Social Security disability claim, it could take months to more than a year for you to receive that money if you keep facing denials and appeals first.
1. Continuing to Work
Although you can continue to work a job while on disability benefits, the maximum amount of money you can earn is $1260 per month. If you’re blind, the amount you can earn is $2110. If you make over that, you won’t be eligible for benefits because the SSA considers the amount you make to be substantial gainful activity.
When you send in your SSI or SSDI claim, be sure to check that your income is under these limits. If not, consider dropping some hours at work or switching to a part-time position.
2. Providing Incomplete Information
The SSA requires a lot of information for an initial SSD claim, including your basic information, income information, and information about your disability. Many denials stem from not filling out all the required information for the SSA to complete your application or filling out forms incorrectly.
If you’re unsure if you have all the information you need for your SSD application, you might consider hiring a disability attorney to help you. He or she will assist you in filling out and filing the paperwork, and they can even work with your medical team to get all medical evidence necessary for your application.
3. Lack of Proofreading
Similarly, small mistakes can affect your SSD benefits application in a big way. You can miscalculate your income, which could result in a denial. You might also write down a prescribed medication incorrectly or not provide an adequate description of the symptoms of your long term disability. These and other mistakes could be enough for the SSA to deny your application and move you to the appeals process.
Before sending in your application, take the time to read through each section’s instructions and your responses. Have a loved one look it over, too, to catch any other possible mistakes.
4. Collecting Unemployment While Waiting for Benefits
Although you can sometimes qualify for both unemployment benefits and disability benefits, it’s often tricky to do so and probably isn’t in your best interest. People who collect disability payments are usually unable to work in a way that leads to substantial gainful activity. Those who collect unemployment can work but need income assistance until they get a job. The two types of benefits can, therefore, conflict with each other.
The SSA cannot deny you because you collect unemployment. However, it can determine that the jobs you’ve applied to are ones that will lead to substantial gainful activity and deny you based on that.
5. Failing to Follow Doctor’s Orders
The SSA can deny your disability claim if it determines that you’re not following your doctor’s orders for medical treatment. This can include not taking medications as prescribed or refusing a treatment that could make your condition better or significantly improve your symptoms. The SSA views an applicant who fails to follow their doctor’s orders as willingly preventing the potential improvement of their condition.
6. Not Switching Doctors When Needed
You might decide not to follow your doctor’s orders if you disagree that your doctor suggests the best treatments and medications for your needs. If your doctor’s views don’t align with yours, it’s crucial to find another doctor that supports you and your needs.
You should also find a doctor that understands that you’re seeking disability benefits and will work with you to provide what you need for your claim. Your doctor should readily provide answers to any questions you have, be prompt in sending your medical records, and have some experience working with SSA disability claims.
7. Not Listing Complete Symptoms
If you have multiple symptoms that stem from your physical disability, you should be sure to note them in your application. Sometimes, applicants leave out significant symptoms, like depression and anxiety, because they don’t think they’ll help them win their case. However, the SSA considers these symptoms when determining if you’re eligible for benefits.
It’s especially important to note depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions on your application if you’re receiving professional treatment for them. You should also list any medications you’re currently taking for those conditions.
8. Not Filing for Secondary Conditions
Similarly, failing to file for secondary conditions that are tied to your primary condition could result in a denial. The more medical information you have, the easier it is to prove your Social Security disability case.
It would be best to get as much of this information as you can from your primary physician or the specialists treating your conditions. They can prove easier than you can that one condition stems from another and list the common symptoms you have every day.
9. Failing to Check the Status of Your Claim
It can take several months, at minimum, for the SSA to review your claim and approve or deny it. That doesn’t mean you need to wait several months before having any communication with the SSA. You’re allowed to – and you should – check on your submitted claim after a month or two, just to make sure it’s moving forward. You can check both online and over the phone.
Your disability lawyer can also do this for you, and they may be the best choice. Lawyers tend to know exactly where to go or who to call to get the most accurate information about your case.
10. Missing Deadlines
The Social Security Administration might send you paperwork via postal mail that asks you to fill out more documents or provide more information. The SSA gives deadlines, but they usually aren’t far into the future. You might only have five to ten days to return the necessary documents.
If you miss a deadline, you could try to show Good Cause by explaining your reason for missing the deadline. The SSA can choose to approve or deny your request. If denied, you may need to resubmit your claim from the beginning.
11. Giving Up
Perhaps the worst mistake you can make as a disability applicant is give up. The process takes a while, and it can be stressful and frustrating for applicants. Still, the wait and process are worth it if you are awarded the benefits for which you’re eligible.
Keep an eye on your mail and respond to telephone calls from SSA agents. Be a stickler about deadlines. Make copies of all documents you send to the SSA for your records, and keep notes of any phone, mail, or in-person communication.
12. Not Hiring a Social Security Disability Attorney
A Social Security disability attorney isn’t necessary in every case, especially those that might be easier to prove because of a long-term or permanent disability. However, they are beneficial for many SSI or SSDI claimants.
Disability lawyers know the system well, and they understand how to navigate it efficiently. They can act as a buffer between you, your medical team, and the SSA, to gather required information, submit it on your behalf, and keep the lines of communication open. An attorney could be your ticket to winning your case the first time and avoiding the appeals process.
When Should I Hire a Disability Attorney?
A Social Security disability attorney can be your number one asset when filing a disability application. Social Security disability claimants can hire a disability attorney to help them not just with the application process, but also with collecting their medical information from doctors and communicating with the SSA during the process.
Your disability lawyer follows the same attorney-client relationship as any other lawyer, meaning that your information remains confidential between the two of you. The attorney will review your disability case and advise you on the best steps to take when filling out your application.
A disability attorney can also help you with the appeals process if you do receive a denial on your SSI or SSDI application. Your attorney can assist you with filling out the appeals paperwork and represent you during a disability hearing for an appeal.
Disability lawyers do not typically charge you a fee for their service until you receive your disability benefits and back pay. When this happens, your lawyer will take a cut of your back pay – usually 10% to 25% – as their fee for helping you with your application and Social Security disability hearing.
Why Are SSDI Claims Denied?
SSI and SSDI claim mistakes can be costly for people applying for benefits. Unfortunately, a small mistake can lead to a denied claim. Claimants must include all required documents and medical evidence, fill out all sections of their application, and proofread all paperwork to ensure accuracy before sending it in.
Keep a notebook of all communication between you, your medical team, the SSA, and your disability attorney, if you have one. You can also jot down deadlines on a calendar you look at daily to avoid missing important dates in the approval process.