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Common misconceptions about applying for SSDI benefits

By Lauryn January 10, 2022

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can be a complex and frustrating process. It often involves the filing of several applications and appeals and can include interactions with multiple divisions of the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because of the strict standards and intricate processes, it is no surprise that misconceptions may arise when it comes to filing for and receiving SSDI benefits. It is important for anyone navigating the Social Security process to have the most accurate information readily available to them. To help those who may be considering applying for SSDI, we have compiled a list of several common misconceptions.

Misconception: “I have to be out of work for a year before applying for SSDI.”
While one of the primary qualifications for a SSDI approval is having a disabling illness or injury that will prevent you from working for at least twelve months, this does not mean that you must be out of work for a year before applying. If there is sufficient supporting medical evidence that your condition(s) is likely to meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability and duration requirement, an application should be filed promptly to minimize any potential gap in your income.

Misconception: “I cannot work and collect SSDI benefits.”
Not only can SSDI beneficiaries return to work while receiving benefits, SSA even offers incentives and resources to help you do so. SSA’s assistance comes in many forms, including a trial work period that allows you to test your ability to return to work and still receive benefits for up to nine months, assuming work activity is reported and disabling conditions persist. Working beneficiaries may also receive benefits for an additional thirty-six months for any month their earnings are below the Substantial Gainful Activity level, provided the earnings are below the threshold amount because of the disabling impairment(s). Social Security also offers additional support through their Ticket to Work program, which include resources such as vocational rehabilitation, career counseling, and job placement to help you return to the workforce.

Misconception: “Receiving SSDI benefits will reduce my retirement benefits.”
Despite the common belief that collecting Social Security benefits before retirement age will negatively impact the receipt of future retirement benefits, applying for, and receiving, SSDI benefits will ultimately protect those earnings. When you stop working, payroll tax contributions halt and “zeroes” are accrued on your earnings records for quarters with no income tax payments. An SSDI approval will “freeze” your earnings record, thus preventing accumulated zeroes from lowering future retirement benefit amounts. If you remain unable to return to work, SSDI benefits will continue until you reach full retirement age – at which point benefits will transition from SSDI benefits to retirement benefits.

Despite its many complexities, SSDI benefits provide important financial support for those navigating life-limiting medical conditions. These are benefits that have been earned by beneficiaries for the years they have worked and contributed to payroll taxes. If you are filing for benefits, continue to have questions about the process, and wish to discuss them, you may reach out to your local Social Security field office or directly to The Advocator Group (now doing business as Brown & Brown Absence Services Group) for further information and assistance.

Nothing in this post is intended as advice or a suggestion to elect or not elect to claim benefits of any kind, including Social Security benefits, nor is it intended as financial advice in any way. The decision to claim benefits is a personal one that is contingent upon each individual’s unique circumstances. Nothing herein is considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Need help applying for SSDI?

Brown & Brown can help you better understand and take advantage of the many benefits of Social Security Disability, to help maximize your financial well-being during your period of disability.