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Filing for Disability Benefits? Don't Make These 3 Mistakes

Man in Wheelchair Making a Phone Call
Living with a life-changing illness or injury can be difficult enough, but realizing that it will affect your ability to provide for your family can be devastating. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration offers disability benefits that can help to mitigate your living expenses.

Unfortunately, these benefits aren't always easy to qualify for. Here are three mistakes most people make when filing for disability benefits and how you can avoid them.  

1. Filling Out Your Own Paperwork

When you are living with a disability that prevents you from working, you might be laser focused on eliminating extra expenses. Unfortunately, choosing to act as your own representative when filing disability paperwork might only draw out the process or prevent you from receiving benefits entirely, so working with a lawyer is a smart move.

Social Security disability laws are complex, with the Social Security Administration regulating everything from the kinds of disabilities that qualify for benefits to the way documents have to be worded to make a person eligible. Although it is possible to file paperwork online for free in the comfort of your own home, doing so dramatically increases the chance of your paperwork being rejected.

In fact, only about 35% of initial disability benefits claims are accepted during the first round of paperwork, which means you have a 65% chance of walking away with nothing initially. However, since lawyers who are trained in disability law have set protocols for acquiring information and filing paperwork, your chances of being approved are greater when you have a lawyer's help.

2. Misrepresenting Your Abilities

When calculating your benefits, one of the biggest factors affecting your ability to qualify is whether or not you are able to do the same kind of work in any capacity. Unfortunately, since people who may be used to living with disabilities might look more capable than they really are, it is essential to represent your abilities accurately on initial disability paperwork.

For example, if you used to be a truck driver but a car accident hurt your ability to sit for long periods of time, it is important to state the length of time that you are capable of sitting, even if that number seems embarrassing. Misrepresenting your abilities could hurt your ability to file successfully, since reviewers might assume you could do different kinds of work.

3. Expecting Too Much Income

Oftentimes, people who apply for disability benefits make the mistake of assuming the program will cover 100% of their original income. This simply isn't the case. In fact, in order to qualify for disability benefits at all, applicants must have worked jobs where disability benefits have been paid in the first place.

The time you spent working for an employer that paid disability benefits directly corresponds with your total disability payment, since the system calculates your AIME, or Average Indexed Monthly Earnings. Although many people assume they will receive at least the total of their average earnings, there are set percentages the government uses to calculate benefits, and these numbers change each year according to tax law.

For example, in 2018, a person applying for disability benefits can expect to earn as much as 90% of their initial $895 of their AIME, plus about 32% of the next amount up to $5,397, plus 15% of any total over that. To put those numbers into perspective, a person who originally earned an average of $3,000 a month could expect to receive about $1500 a month plus a set base amount for benefits.

Simply put, you shouldn't expect to get rich off of disability benefits, but the amount you receive can help you to provide for yourself and your family. Additionally, since Social Security benefits can include back pay for the time you have spent unable to work in the past, you could be eligible for a one-time payout for missed work leading up to this point.

Applying for and receiving disability benefits can seem hard, but it doesn't have to feel that way. At Walden & Walden, we have represented clients applying for disability benefits for over 30 years, giving our attorneys an invaluable understanding of the entire process. To find out whether you could be eligible for disability benefits, contact our office today. 

Disclaimer: No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.