Social Security is a vital program for millions of Americans. It provides much-needed monetary and medical benefits for the elderly, the disabled, and dependents of deceased workers.
Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration gets a bad rap. Many people don’t fully understand everything the agency does, and subsequently most people’s opinions of its programs are based off misinformation and inaccurate reports.
The disability insurance program in particular tends to have a lot of misconceptions. Here are five of the most common:
- Disability Benefits = Welfare
Disability benefits are not welfare. Far from it. Social Security Disability is an insurance program, which means you have to pay into it to receive benefit coverage in the event you are unable to work due to a medical condition. It’s just like the retirement program but with different eligibility requirements and different payment accounts for the benefits, so if you are eligible for the program, you should feel no qualms about applying. You paid into the program in case a medical condition prevented you from working, and now you need coverage. It’s not a government handout; you worked hard for these benefits.
- Most Social Security Disability beneficiaries aren’t really disabled. They’re just too lazy to work.
The Social Security Administration’s disability approval process is actually quite stringent and thorough. In fact, it has some of the strictest requirements of any developed nation in the world. Fraud is incredibly rare and really only accounts for less than one percent of benefit payments. Additionally, disability beneficiaries tend to be elderly, which is understandable since we usually experience greater health complications the older we get. The vast majority of disability beneficiaries are between the ages of 50 and 65.
- If my doctor tells the Social Security Administration that I am disabled, I’ll automatically be eligible for benefits.
While a doctor’s support can be beneficial to your case, it is not the end all be all for approval. The Social Security Administration will evaluate your income and medical records to verify that you meet the program’s requirements, and if they have any questions about your eligibility, they will send you to a consultative exam to gather more information. It can be a long, drawn-out process. Try to remain patient, and make sure you are getting information to the Social Security Administration in a timely manner to ensure your case is evaluated as soon as possible.
- Nobody is ever approved the first time they apply. You have to submit multiple applications.
It’s easy to see where this rumor comes from. After all, nearly 70 percent of initial applications are denied. However, the Social Security Administration has no policy or formula that denies all initial claims. It’s just incredibly hard to prove you meet the program’s requirements without going before an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing. If you are denied for benefits after submitting an application, don’t just fill out a new one. File a request for reconsideration, and keep moving through the appeals process until you are approved or run out of options. If you just file a new application, you will more than likely continue to be denied.
- It’s not worth applying because the disability fund is going to run out next year anyway.
Although the Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund is expected to run out of its reserves by late next year, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for benefits. As it moves closer to insolvency, Congress will start feeling the pressure to act—either by reforming or reallocating funds out of the Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund. Reallocation isn’t a new concept; actually it’s been done multiple times in the past to keep both programs solvent. Even if worst comes to worst, and the reserves do temporarily run out, the Disability Insurance fund will still bring in enough money to keep paying out 80 percent of benefits.
All in all, the Social Security Disability Insurance program is quite effective and helps millions of Americans who are unable to work through no fault of their own. Hopefully you never need to use these benefits, but if you do, you can rest easy knowing they’re available to help you through this difficult time in your life.
Author Info: Alyssa Vincent is a writer for DisabilityGuide.com, a website dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities navigate the Social Security Disability process. She lives in Salt Lake City and enjoys reading, blogging and riding her Vespa.