5 Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Disability Benefits

Applying for disability benefits can be a complex process, and it’s important to understand the requirements and follow the process correctly.

The application process for Social Security Disability benefits is long and detailed, the system is bureaucratic, and many applications are wrongfully denied due to minor errors or omissions. You can overcome some challenges to obtaining disability benefits by avoiding these five common missteps when applying.

1. Failing To Educate Yourself

A major stumbling block for many applicants is not understanding the basics of the Social Security Disability Insurance program.

The program provides benefits for people who are unable to work for a year or more or have a condition expected to end in death. You must have worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security, usually 10 years, to be entitled to benefits. You also must have a medical condition that meets the Social Security definition of disability.

2. Failing to Apply Quickly or to Appeal a Denial

It is especially important to apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It may take a long time for Social Security to process your application.

If your application is turned down at first, as many are, you should not hesitate to appeal. An initial denial is not necessarily the final word, and you have the right to pursue your case further. However, there usually are deadlines for appealing. You must file your appeal before the deadline to avoid having to start over with a new application.

3. Neglecting To Follow Your Doctor’s Advice

Although you may be too sick to work, your word alone won’t be enough to qualify you for disability benefits. You must provide solid medical evidence proving that your medical condition makes it impossible for you to work. Receiving continuous and consistent medical treatment is the only way to provide it.

One way Social Security Disability examiners evaluate a claim is by determining whether you have sought treatment and complied with your doctor’s recommendations. If you fail to take your medications, the Social Security Administration may conclude that your condition isn’t as severe and limiting as you claim.

There are only a few acceptable reasons for not following prescribed treatment, such as being unable to afford it or experiencing side effects from medication that are worse than the symptoms being treated.

4. Being Dishonest

Many applicants mistakenly believe that making their condition seem more serious than it really is can help them obtain benefits. However, that can hurt you when Social Security compares your claim with your doctor’s reports and finds inconsistencies. That being said, it’s important not to downplay your symptoms either.

Disability decisions are based in part on your work history, which should thoroughly describe the requirements of your previous jobs. The Social Security Administration will look closely at this to determine whether you would be able to return to a previous job or whether your impairment would prevent it. Simply put, dishonesty will hurt your chances of getting your disability benefits approved.

5. Ignoring Income Limitations

The Social Security Administration limits what you can earn and still receive benefits. To collect benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance, you cannot earn more than $1,070 per month. (Supplemental Security Income is different from disability and is based upon different criteria).

While it may be possible to collect both disability and unemployment benefits, there is a risk that the Social Security Administration will deny your claim as you say that you can’t work to receive disability benefits, but can work to receive unemployment.

5 Steps to Follow when Applying for Disability Benfits

Here are some general steps to follow when applying for disability benefits:

  1. Gather all necessary medical records and documentation: This includes any medical history, laboratory test results, and any other evidence that supports your claim of disability.
  2. Fill out the appropriate forms: Depending on the type of benefits you are applying for (e.g. Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income), you will need to fill out the appropriate forms.
  3. Submit your application and documentation: Submit your application and documentation to the appropriate agency (e.g. Social Security Administration) either in person, by mail, or online.
  4. Wait for a decision: After submitting your application, it can take several months to receive a decision. During this time, the agency will review your application and make a determination of eligibility.
  5. Appeal the decision if denied: If your application is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. It’s important to seek legal assistance from a qualified attorney or advocate if you are denied benefits.

It’s also important to note that disability benefits are not guaranteed and the process can be quite difficult.

A Disability Attorney Can Help

It’s a good idea to consult with a disability attorney to increase the chance of success. The Social Security Administration website provides answers to general questions about the program. However, an experienced disabilities benefits lawyer can explain how the program addresses your particular condition.

A Social Security Disability lawyer who understands the application and appeals process can review your situation, collect the necessary medical evaluations you need, and prepare a solid application so that you receive the benefits to which you’re entitled.