Applying for social security disability benefits can be a stressful process, especially while coping with your disability at the same time. The process is long and complicated. If you get it wrong, it can lead to delays in receiving benefits, or denial of your social security request altogether. Because of this, when you are applying for social security disability benefits, it is sometimes helpful to consult a social security disability lawyer or advocate to guide you through the process. Otherwise, some of the most common mistakes that lead to delays or rejection while applying for social security disability benefits include:
- MISTAKE: Receiving unemployment compensation while applying for social security disability benefits.
In reality, if your disability led to a loss of employment, it makes sense that you would utilize unemployment benefits to get by until your social security benefits kick in. However, on paper, it might look like you’re contradicting yourself. Unemployment compensation is for able-bodied workers who are actively seeking full-time work. Social security disability benefits are for people who are physically incapable of performing work for at least 12 months. The social security office has been known to verify that their recipients are not “double dipping” and reject claims for recipients who get unemployment while waiting on social security.
- MISTAKE: Working while you apply for social security disability benefits.
Even if the nature of your disability has substantially reduced your income, or only allowed you to work part-time, your social security disability claim will not be approved if you make more than what is considered “substantial gainful activity” (or SGA) in the year that you apply. For the year 2016, the SGA is $1,130 per month. If you make more than that, you will need to quit working, or at least reduce the amount that you work, before applying for social security disability benefits in order to get your claim approved.
Note: The SGA is calculated differently for self-employment income. If you are self-employed, discussing your situation with a social security lawyer will help you determine the amount you can make and still qualify for social security.
- MISTAKE: Not watching the status of your claim.
As with any bureaucratic process, sometimes more paperwork is needed for the claim to proceed, sometimes the case gets put on hold for one reason or another, and sometimes the request is denied and the claimant will need to file an appeal for it to be reopened. When these issues come up, you can’t always assume that you will be notified. If you are not watching the status of your claim, it sits in limbo and valuable time (sometime months!) are wasted until you get the social security assistance you need to live on.
- MISTAKE: Not seeking medical care, or not following the medical protocol recommended by your doctor.
The credibility of your claim is dependent on proof that you are seeking medical care for your disability, and following the doctor’s orders. The social security agent reviewing your case will verify that you are being seen by a doctor to make sure your claim is legitimate. Also, if the agent finds evidence that you are not following the treatment prescribed to you (such as wearing a brace, attending physical therapy, or taking medication), they will conclude that your condition is not as debilitating as you claim.
- MISTAKE: Not obtaining a social security disability lawyer because you cannot afford to.
If you are unable to work and generate an income, you might be concerned about how to cover your basic necessities, such as paying your mortgage and affording food. You obviously cannot afford the notoriously high fees that come with hiring a lawyer. However, this almost all disability claimants are in the exact same circumstances, and so most social security lawyers work on contingency. This means that you aren’t expected to pay anything until you actually start receiving your social security benefits, when you can afford to. Having a social security attorney advocating for your case could get your request through the process quicker, or might be the factor that gets it approved at all.
Have you gone through the social security disability process? Do you have any tips to offer other people just starting out?