Workers who become unable to work because of a debilitating illness or injury may be eligible for Social Security disability insurance. However, because the process of applying for and receiving benefits is so complex, many individuals misunderstand how SSDI works or decide not to apply even if they have a qualifying disability.
These are the facts behind four common misconceptions about SSDI.
Receiving an application denial
You may have heard that most people do not successfully obtain SSDI the first time they apply. However, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, about 35% of applicants receive an approval. You can increase your chances of approval by submitting comprehensive medical documentation about your disability and how it prevents you from working and limits your activities.
Receiving benefits after substance abuse
Some say you cannot ever qualify for SSDI if you have abused substances in the past. However, you can receive an approval if you can prove you have been sober for at least one year, even if you have a disability related to past addiction, such as cirrhosis of the liver.
Although a common misconception says that SSDI recipients may not earn any other income, you may be able to earn a limited amount of income if you are able to do so without affecting your benefits. The threshold for this income, which the Social Security Administration calls substantial gainful activity, is $1,220 a month or $2,040 for individuals who are blind.
Returning to work
Many individuals fear that if they become able to return to work and successfully do so, they will need to restart the SSDI application process if their injury or disease prevents them from working again in the future. In fact, if your initial application was within the past five years and you still have the same condition, you can take advantage of an expedited process to ask the Social Security Administration to reinstate your benefits.
Understanding how this process works can improve your chances of approval. Review the materials provided by SSA and follow instructions carefully to avoid a technical denial.