8 Major Misconceptions About Social Security Disability Benefits

There is a lot of information and statistics around Social Security disability benefits and its claimants. In the news, you’ll read headlines like “Disability backlog tops 1 million; thousands die on waitlist,” or “most cases take several years to win benefits.” So then you’re left thinking, “what’s the point of filing for disability then?”
As a law firm that has over sixty years of combined experience, we have handled tens of thousands of disability cases and want to shed light on some of the misconceptions about Social Security disability. 

Do Social Security disability cases really take several years to win?

clock showing the time

It can take up to two years to receive disability benefits if an initial application is denied. Every case is different. The national average is 18 months, or a year and a half. This means some cases take longer than 18 months, and some are much shorter.

In our experience, we, unfortunately, have seen some cases take years. But this can be dependent on a lot of factors such as a claim being refiled from scratch, the age of the applicant, the judge assigned to the case, the type of disabling condition(s) and more. We have also had numerous cases where benefits were won within 30 days to a few short months. It truly all depends. We encourage anyone who is thinking of filing a claim to call us before you file.

Do most disability claimants die before they have a hearing?

It is possible and true in some cases that disability claimants do pass away before they have a hearing. However, if your doctor says that you are going to die from your medical condition, then the court will expedite your case and grant you an emergency hearing. Any attorney can arrange for this, and we at Balin Law certainly do this for our terminally ill clients. 

Do all disability claimants get denied the first time? 

Absolutely not. We have worked with thousands of disability claimants who received benefits the first time they filed and claimants who received benefits within months from filing. The law is complex and there are three case types your claim can be put into: physical, mental, or combination cases. 
Physical cases usually depend on the age of the applicant. The Social Security Administration recognizes that folks age 55 and older face challenges that younger folks do not. This means that a 40-year-old can get disability benefits the first time they apply, but they will face a more rigorous test than the 55+-year-old filing for disability for a physical condition.
Mental health cases are analyzed by the Social Security Administration under what’s called “sustainability issues.” Sustainability issues are regarded as understanding if the claimant was able to keep a job or not. Other cases can be looked at from the claimant’s “transferrable skills,” which means the claimant transitions into easier work than they once had. The Social Security Administration puts together a chart for transferrable skills. This can be a little confusing, so we encourage you to call us with questions.
Certain conditions are automatically considered disabling. For example, certain cancers are automatically disabling. Certain rapid-growing medical conditions are also considered automatic disabling. The bottom line here is that every case is different.

If I keep appealing my disability case, will I eventually get benefits?

Not necessarily. Take a look at this chart:
Ohio ODAR disability cases won denied dismissed chart

source: disabilityjudges.com as of 9/7/2017

You can see that every major city in Ohio has different statistics for disability claims being approved, denied, or dismissed. Akron, Ohio has a 46 percent rate of approved cases vs. a 38 percent rate of denied cases with 16 percent of cases being dismissed. A case can be dismissed for several reasons. A claimant can fail to show up to the hearing or fail to follow treatment (or there was a lack of treatment). Another reason can be that a claimant went back to work after recovery. Again, every case is different. 
It’s important to hire an experienced attorney when filing or appealing a disability claim. An experienced lawyer can prepare you for a hearing, go over what to expect, but also align your case so it stands the best chance to win benefits. Balin Law’s win rate for approved cases in Cleveland is far higher than the average win rate—compared to the average 38 percent. Moreover, Balin Law’s win rate in Federal Court is far above the average win rate of 41 percent.

My doctor said I was disabled, so I will get benefits, right?

doctor holding tablet

Contrary to popular belief, doctors rarely provide an opinion in Social Security disability cases. The Social Security rules specifically say that “the determination of disability is reserved to the Commissioner.” This means that scan reports, treatment notes, surgical reports and other medical reports are key even if an opinion from a physician is presented. No one receives disability benefits just because their doctor says they are disabled. 

Do you have to “look disabled” to be disabled?

woman walking next to man in wheelchair with disability cane

Claimants often come in saying their neighbor or acquaintance got disability benefits when nothing was wrong with them. Sometimes, we see people and just by looking at them, you would not expect them to have a disabling condition. But then a couple of hours later, they are suicidal, homicidal or having panic attacks, fainting, etc. A “disabled look” can be very deceiving. There are several “invisible disabilities” such as fibromyalgia or chronic pain. 

What about prison and disability benefits?

prison cell

There are disability claimants that are determined mentally impaired that are incarcerated and released from prison. Some of these claimants who were incarcerated were on disability before prison and are now in a position that they have to prove disability all over again.

There is a very helpful law that allows those individuals to be reinstated benefits for Social Security Disability. Additionally, a prior finding of disability under Supplemental Security Income is also critically helpful. It seems that prison warehouses so many mentally impaired people that really need mental health treatment and services and incarceration rarely helps those impairments.

Can you get disability if you’re an alcoholic or drug addict? 

glass of alcohol next to pills

Yes, you can. It’s disappointing that claimants who have a substance abuse or alcohol abuse problem can face discrimination. If there is a disabling mental impairment—which there usually is—the substance abuse or alcoholism will muck up the claim ONLY if the substance abuse/alcoholism are material factors contributing to the disability.
In other words, if there would still be a disabling condition, in spite of the substance abuse, you can win disability benefits! Also, if you cannot parse out how someone would be without the abuse, you can win disability benefits!  The tie goes to the claimant, and rightfully so. Alcoholism and substance abuse are horrible impairments that are often evident in people facing mental disabilities. 
As you can see, there are a lot of misconceptions around Social Security disability. We encourage you to call us for a free consultation if you believe you need disability benefits.
Call us (866-492-2546) or share in the comments below your thoughts or questions related to Social Security disability benefits!

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