Is It Even Worth Trying To Apply For Disability Benefits?

Submitted by rtg on

The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits to individuals who can’t work because of disabling conditions. You might be considering applying for disability benefits if you can’t work because of an injury or illness.

However, you might have heard that the application process is complex. Perhaps you’re also aware that the SSA denies most first-time applications.

Is it worth applying for disability benefits when you consider these factors? The answer is different for everyone.

The following overview will help you understand why it may or may not be worth applying for benefits with the SSA. A lawyer can answer your questions in greater detail and assist with the application process.

Why Should You Apply For Disability Benefits?

Along with having a disability that prevents you from working, reasons you may apply for disability benefits include the following:

  • The money could make a big difference: Many factors can influence how much money you may receive from the SSA every month if your application is accepted. That said, you could be eligible to receive up to $3,822 per month in benefits. These monthly payments can substantially improve your quality of life if you currently struggle to pay for food, housing, etc.
  • You may qualify for other forms of benefits: When you apply for disability benefits, you might find you also qualify for healthcare through Medicare or Medicaid.
  • You could receive benefits for life: Payments will typically continue for as long as you need them. Depending on the nature of your disability, this could mean you’ll continue receiving disability benefits for life.

In addition, back pay is available when the SSA accepts your application. That means you can receive payment for a period of time when you should have been receiving benefits. This could offset some of the difficulties you might face during the period between when you submit an application and when you receive an approval.

Why Should You NOT Apply For Disability Benefits?

There are circumstances in which it might not be worth applying for disability benefits. Consider the following potential examples:

  • You can still work: A disability must prevent you from being able to engage in “substantial gainful activity” for you to be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. You may not be eligible to receive benefits if your condition doesn’t prevent you from working.
  • You’re returning to work shortly: One of the criteria you must meet to receive disability benefits from the SSA is having a condition that’s expected to last at least 12 months or result in your death. There may be no reason to apply for benefits if your condition is improving to such a degree or at such a rate that you expect you’ll be able to return to work in the near future.
  • You’re at retirement age: You can receive SSDI if you meet the SSA’s criteria and you haven’t reached retirement age. If you’re at retirement age, SSDI becomes retirement benefits, meaning there’s no point in going through the SSDI application process.

It’s not always easy to determine if you should or shouldn’t apply for benefits. Consider speaking with a legal professional to learn more about your options.

What Are Disability Benefits?

Disability benefits come in two forms: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The following explains the basics of each program:

  • SSI: Someone may qualify for SSI if they have a disability that prevents them from working and earning an income. SSI is primarily a “needs-based” program. The SSA will account for an applicant’s age, the nature of their disability, their income level, and other relevant factors to determine whether they’re eligible for SSI.
  • SSDI: SSI and SSDI share some similarities. Both forms of Social Security disability benefits may be available to individuals who can’t work because of disabling conditions. However, to be eligible for SSDI, someone must also have worked in the past and paid into the Social Security system. The SSA will account for the number of “work credits” an applicant has accrued during their time in the workforce to determine whether they’re eligible for SSDI.

These differences can also influence how someone’s age may affect their eligibility for disability benefits. For example, SSI may be available to children who meet the SSA’s criteria. Because someone needs to have worked to be eligible for SSDI, children usually aren’t eligible for this type of benefit, although they may receive benefits through their parents.

How To Apply For Disability Benefits

You may apply for Social Security disability benefits in one of the following ways:

  • Completing and submitting an online application
  • Calling 1-800-772-1213 to speak with a representative who can set up an appointment for you to apply

The SSA offers a Disability Starter Kit to help applicants prepare for their initial interviews. Consider reviewing one carefully to determine how you can prepare.

General information and documentation you may need to provide when applying for disability benefits with the SSA include:

  • A birth certificate or similar proof of birth
  • Documentation proving you’re a U.S. citizen or lawful alien
  • If you served in the U.S. military before 1968, military discharge papers
  • Tax returns or related income documentation from last year
  • An Adult Disability Report, which provides the SSA with information about your condition
  • Medical evidence, such as test results, treatment plans, etc.
  • Any documentation of settlement agreements, workers’ compensation settlements, and similar settlements that may be related to your condition

The SSA can request more documentation it feels is necessary to make a decision about your application. Be aware, you can appeal the SSA’s initial decision if they deny your claim for benefits.

Speak With a Disability Lawyer

This overview may have helped you better understand whether applying for disability benefits is worth your time. However, you might still have questions about the topic.

A lawyer can answer them. By reviewing your case with a disability attorney, you can explore this topic with someone who has information about the specifics of your situation.

If you do decide to apply for disability, a disability lawyer can also help you navigate the process. Learn more by taking the Free Case Evaluation to speak with an independent lawyer who subscribes to the website and may be qualified to handle your case.

Additional Resources

  • Answering Common Social Security Disability Questions
  • How to Apply for Disability Benefits Without a Diagnosis