Common Mistakes in Social Security Disability Applications

Navigating the Social Security Disability application process can be daunting, fraught with potential pitfalls that can easily lead to denials. Anjel Burgess, a seasoned disability attorney and host of The DisabiliTEA, sheds light on applicants’ common mistakes and how to avoid them. Let’s dive into these mistakes and provide guidance to enhance your chances of approval.

Applying While Working Full-Time

One of the most significant misunderstandings about disability benefits is the notion that you can work full-time and still qualify. The essence of disability benefits is to provide financial assistance to those who cannot engage in substantial gainful activity due to a disability. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Substantial Gainful Activity: If you’re working full-time, the SSA assumes you’re not disabled to the extent that you qualify for benefits. It’s vital to understand that disability, in this context, means you cannot work due to your medical condition. SSA defines substantial gainful activity for 2024 as making $1550 per month gross or more from working.
  • Alternatives: If you find that you are going to have to stop working due to your conditions, before you go out of work, consider  obtaining other forms of support, such as short-term or long-term disability insurance through your employer. If you later have to go out of work on short-term or long termm disability, these programs can offer a financial bridge for you if you while you wait for SSDI or SSI approval. 

Filing the Wrong Type of Application

Understanding the distinction between the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs is essential for a successful disability claim. Misapplication can result in a technical denial, significantly delaying the support needed.

SSDI vs. SSI: A Deeper Dive

  • SSDI is geared towards individuals who have accumulated sufficient work credits through prior employment. It’s designed to support those who’ve contributed to the Social Security system via FICA or SECA taxes but can no longer  work due to a disability.
  • SSI, on the other hand, does not require a work history but assesses financial need. It aids individuals with limited income and resources, including childrenand adults who have never worked or earned enough work credits.

Avoiding Technical Denials:

  • Check your eligibility before applying. Review your work history, income, and resources to determine which program fits your situation.
  • If you do not have enough work quarters to qualify for SSDI, utilize the SSA’s online Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST) to help you determine whether you meet the financial guidelines for SSI.
  • Consult with a disability attorney or advocate if you’re unsure. Professionals familiar with the SSA’s criteria can provide guidance, reducing the risk of errors in your application.

Additional Considerations:

  • Concurrent Eligibility: Some individuals may qualify for both SSDI and SSI. Applying for both programs can maximize your benefits and ensure you receive the fullest support.
  • Update Your Application if Circumstances Change: If your financial situation changes while your application is pending (e.g., you  deplete your resources), notify the SSA. Adjustments might change your eligibility status or the program best suited for you.
  • Understand the Impacts of Receiving Both Benefits: If you’re eligible for bothSSDI and SSI, be aware that receiving SSDI payments may reduce your SSI benefits due to income counting rules.

Lack of Adequate Medical Evidence

Perhaps the most common hurdle to successful disability claims is insufficient medical evidence. The SSA needs comprehensive medical records to understand your condition and how it affects your ability to work.

  • Regular Treatment: Continuous medical treatment and documentation of your condition are paramount. With ongoing treatment, there’s more evidence for the SSA to review, significantly diminishing your chances of approval.
  • Detailed Medical Records: Ensure your medical records thoroughly document your symptoms, treatments, and effectiveness. Encourage your healthcare providers to detail the impact of your condition on your daily life and work capacity.

Next Steps After a Denial

Don’t lose hope if you’ve made any of these common mistakes. Understanding where things went wrong is the first step to rectifying your application:

  • Reapplication: You can often reapply or appeal with corrected information, whether it’s applying for the correct program or gathering more comprehensive medical evidence.
  • Seek Professional Advice: Consider consulting with a disability attorney who can review your case, advise on the best course of action, and assist with gathering the necessary documentation.

How Burgess & Christensen Can Help

At Burgess & Christensen, we’re dedicated to guiding you through the complexities of the Social Security Disability application process. Our team, led by Anjel Burgess, can help identify and rectify common mistakes in your application, improving your chances of receiving the benefits you need.

If you’re navigating the challenging waters of applying for disability benefits, or if you’ve faced a denial and aren’t sure why call us today at 770-422-8111 or contact us online for a free consultation. Let Anjel Burgess and her team at Burgess & Christensen provide the expertise and support you need to secure your Social Security Disability benefits.