Common Mistake - Waiting Too Long to Apply for Disability Benefits

If you have a disability which prevents you from being able to work full time, causes you to be out of work, or even suspect that your disabling condition is likely to last more than a year, you are better off applying for Social Security Disability benefits sooner rather than later. If you have to be out of work for more than a year, apply for disability benefits before it is too late. One of the biggest mistakes which Social Security Disability claimants make is waiting too long to apply for disability benefits.

Not only does this have the obvious effect of causing it to take longer for your disability benefits to be approved, but it can have some negative effects on you and your disability benefits which you may not have considered, including:

  • Making it harder to establish your claim due to available medical information being outdated.
  • Loss of potential back pay due to the fact that claims are limited to 12 months prior to the filing date.
  • Possible lack of ongoing medical treatment as benefits are lost from being away from work.

One of the major problems with waiting too long to apply for disability benefits is that the SSA uses the most current medical information available to make its determinations. If you are undergoing treatment with a number of doctors and specialists now, especially if you are covered by private insurance, it’s best to go ahead and apply for benefits while there is a wealth of medical documentation current and available which can be taken into account in your disability claim.

If you wait to apply, you run the risk of allowing the most pertinent medical information to become somewhat outdated. This doesn’t mean that the SSA won’t consider this information, but it might very well mean that the SSA will require you to undergo additional medical examinations which you could have avoided. It’s always better to have your own heath care professionals providing the SSA with their medical opinions on your condition based on a long term relationship with you rather than having medical examiners who are in the employ of the SSA giving their recommendations based on a brief visit and exam.

Another reason why it’s a mistake to wait to apply for Social Security Disability benefits in most cases is that you are limited regarding the amount of back pay you are entitled to based on when you apply for benefits. You are eligible for benefits dating back to the date of your condition’s onset, if it can be established. However, this is limited to one year before you apply for benefits. So, if you are struck with a disabling condition this year and wait two years before you apply for disability benefits, you are cheating yourself out of a whole year’s worth of benefits. This happens a lot more than most people realize.

You should file for Social Security Disability benefits as soon as you have reasonable cause to believe that your disabling condition is expected to last twelve months or longer. Because a disability must be expected to last a year or longer in order to qualify for benefits, some mistakenly believe they can’t (or shouldn’t) apply for benefits until they have been disabled for a year.

There are a couple of major problems with that thinking. First, it can cost you money to which you are entitled. Secondly, it means you will wait longer to start receiving benefits. The claims process is long as it is, taking several months (and sometimes more than a year) before claims are approved. The last thing you want to do is wait until you’ve been disabled a whole year to start the claims process.

Even if you aren’t positive that your disabling condition will be long term, you should consider contacting the SSA and letting them know that you intend to file for disability benefits. Doing this establishes a protective filing date, which can be used as your filing date should you decide to apply for benefits later.

If you have waited to apply for disability, it would be wise to at least consult a Social Security attorney who will be able to tell you about the obstacles you will have to face along the way to getting your benefits approved. Click here to receive a free case evaluation from a Social Security attorney who serves your area