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Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Social Security Disability

Sometimes it seems as if the Social Security Administration makes it as difficult as possible to obtain Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. You paid your entire working life for this disability insurance program. It should be easier.

Unfortunately, logic has little to do with how the SSA works when it comes to awarding disability benefits, making it difficult to anticipate what problems it might find with your claim. However, a recent article in the Motley Fool, the online personal finance magazine, provides some advice about mistakes to avoid when submitting your claim for disability benefits.

According to the article, the most common mistakes when applying for SSD benefits include:

  • Working too much when you apply. You are presumably applying because you can no longer work, so working full time or close to it will almost guarantee denial of your claim. Generally, if you make more than $1,090 per month, Social Security will assume that you are able to work and deny disability benefits. And even if you don't make $1,090 permonth,but are working close to full time, the SSA can still say that you are able to work.
  • Not working enough. You must have worked at least 1.5 years in the three years before you turn 28. The number of years you must have worked before becoming disabled grows over time so that if you apply for disability benefits at age 60, you must have worked 9.5 years.
  • Applying for benefits when your disability is temporary. For the purpose of applying for benefits, a disability must be expected to last at least 12 months or to end in death. Recovering from a heart attack or cancer is not enough by itself to qualify you for disability benefits - unless you are expected to be out of commission for 12 months or more because of the illness.
  • Filing an unemployment claim while you wait for a decision on SSD benefits. This is somewhat like working when you apply. Unemployment benefits are supposed to tide you over until you can obtain another job. Filing for disability while on unemployment suggests that you expect to work again. It is not illegal - it just sends the wrong signal. And in some states, if you are awarded disability benefits after being on unemployment, you may be asked to repay your unemployment benefits. Don't risk it.
  • Giving more information than needed or giving incomplete information. For example, if you say you volunteer to help children learn to read, but don't mention that you do it only once a month, your application for benefits might be denied because it sounds as if you could work. Exaggerating your work background is another type of common mistake. For example, if a school custodian reports that he does all the electrical work but really only changes light bulbs, he could easily be denied because he misstated his qualifications and could be viewed as able to work. In his view, he is showing how hard-working he is, but in the view of the SSA, he could havetransferrableskills even when disabled that would allow him to work.
  • Trying to appear more disabled than you really are. People know how difficult it is to obtain SSD benefits, and they may try to improve their chances of success by exaggerating their disabilities. However, hearing officers and judges are very sensitive to even the smallest suggestion of fraud, and you could be denied for exaggerating even if you had a strong claim to begin with.
  • Not explaining fully why you cannot work because of your impairment. For example, if you say that you can no longer drive a truck, but don't explain that your disability makes it impossible to sit for more than 10 or 15 minutes, the SSA may conclude that you are capable of working, just not capable of driving a truck. However, not being able to sit for more than a few minutes can disqualify you from many types of employment.
  • Not following the timetable. If your claim is denied, you only have a limited time to file an appeal. Otherwise, you must start all over again.

Mistakes like these can mean the difference between a claim that is approved relatively quickly and one that is denied, forcing you to appeal. The best way to avoid such mistakes is to hire an advocate to help you fill out your claim from the beginning. When your application is completed correctly the first time, you can avoid mistakes like these that will jeopardize you claim and could force you to file an appeal.

At Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates, we help people avoid mistakes with their claims and appeals. To learn more, give us a call. We serve working men and women throughout the United States and beyond.

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