Top 5 Social Security Disability Application Mistakes to Avoid

Social Security disability application

If you’re disabled and cannot work, getting your claim denied for much-needed Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) can be devastating. Many Americans depend on SSDI to carry themselves and their families through a difficult time. And while millions apply for benefits each year, roughly 68% of claims are initially denied. In fact, basic paperwork errors are among the top Social Security disability application mistakes first-time claimants can make. If the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies your claim, you’ll get a letter in the mail explaining why.

Understanding why your claim was denied can help you correct any potential Social Security disability application mistakes before you appeal. Of course, the SSA’s appeals process can take a long, long time. Why go through all that if you can make sure you submit the right application paperwork the first time? Whether you’re a first-time applicant or about to appeal, don’t make these five Social Security disability application mistakes.

Top 5 Social Security Disability Application Mistakes

#1 Social Security disability application mistake: Applying for benefits while you’re still working (even if it’s just part-time)

The first thing the SSA looks at when evaluating your disability claim is whether you’re currently working or not. Working part-time only or earning very low pay doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be denied SSDI. However, if you’re working full-time or doing a substantial amount of contract work, the SSA will deny your disability claim.

The reason why? The SSA’s own definition of disability is listed as “the inability to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA).” For disability applicants, SGA is defined as any work that pays more than a certain dollar amount in monthly income. In 2018, that amount is $1,180 for disabled applicants who aren’t blind and $1,970 for those who are blind. If your monthly income’s higher (including child support, alimony, interest or other passive income), the SSA believes you’re not “disabled.” In other words, your claim gets denied because you “are able to engage in competitive employment in the national economy.”

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and the SSA will consider each applicant’s individual work and income circumstances. But as a general rule, the SSA won’t even review your application’s medical evidence if you earn too much money.

#2 Social Security disability application mistake: Applying for benefits before your doctor confirms you’ll be out of work for one year or longer (12 continuous months)

If your disability won’t prevent you from working for at least one year (or result in death), don’t bother applying for SSDI. Your claim will automatically be denied if your medical condition is expected to significantly improve in less than 12 months. But do file a claim if your doctor says your condition is persistent or diagnoses your disability as permanent. This criterion exists because the SSA hopes you’ll recover from your illness or disability and then rejoin the workforce.

#3 Social Security disability application mistake: Expecting the consultative exam doctor to find enough evidence to prove that you’re disabled

Before the SSA makes your determination, a claim examiner and physician consult with each other to assess your disability status. The SSA trains all claim examiners in Social Security law and regulations. These examiners decide whether to approve or deny your claim, not your doctor or the physicians performing your consultative exam. Of course, the claims examiner and committee physicians will give special consideration to your own doctor’s opinions. That said, clinical observations, test results, or other supporting medical evidence must support your doctor’s original disability assessment.

Essentially, your doctor must show how your disability diagnosis was made and why it limits or prevents you from working. You’ll only see a consultative doctor your Social Security disability application medical documents aren’t enough evidence to support your claim. You’ll get a letter from Disability Determination Services (DDS) with the consultative doctor’s name, contact information and your appointment details.

#4 Social Security disability application mistake: Missing doctor visits, medical treatments or not getting your prescriptions filled

If you do receive a consultative exam letter, you absolutely must confirm your appointment and be on time for your exam. Cooperating fully is essential, and failure to do so will likely result in denial of your claim. Whether you follow your doctor’s guidelines and take prescribed medication or not will affect how the SSA views your condition. Often, a Social Security disability application is denied because the claimant didn’t take medication or follow a doctor’s treatment plan. Your credibility as a claimant hinges on your willingness to follow your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan for your disability condition.

#5 Social Security disability application mistake: Not getting professional help with your claim (unless you’re terminally ill)

Filing your Social Security disability application is comparable to doing your yearly income taxes. While you technically can file a claim on your own, it doesn’t always mean that you should. Understanding legal requirements can improve your odds of winning benefits, especially if you can’t afford to wait for an appeal. An experienced attorney knows what information the SSA needs, the best way to present it, and how to get the maximum benefits you’re eligible for approved faster than you’d get if you filed your application on your own.

The only time you wouldn’t benefit from legal assistance is if your condition is on the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) list. This initiative helps claimants whose medical conditions obviously meet the SSA’s definition of disability get much-needed monthly benefits even faster. If you’re diagnosed with one or more CAL list conditions, you likely can file your own Social Security disability application. Still, it may not hurt to get professional legal help if you find the application process confusing in any way.

You May Qualify for Legal Assistance

Want a Social Security advocate or attorney to help file your claim free of charge? Our lawyers work on contingency and get paid nothing unless they help you win disability benefits. And if you do win, you’ll pay a one-time fee after only your case is approved.

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Top 5 Social Security Disability Application Mistakes

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