8 Major Misconceptions About Social Security Disability Benefits

Getting a Handle on the Misconceptions

Amidst the vast array of information and statistics surrounding Social Security disability benefits and its claimants, news headlines often highlight concerning issues like the disability backlog surpassing one million cases or passing away while on the waitlist. Additionally, it's disheartening to learn that many cases take years to secure benefits.

This might leave you wondering, "Is it even worth filing for disability?"

As a law firm that has over 130 years of combined experience, we have handled tens of thousands of disability cases and want to shed light on some of the misconceptions about Social Security disability.

Misconception #1.
Social Security disability cases take several years to win

In our experience, we unfortunately have seen some cases take years. But this can be dependent on a lot of factors such as a claim being refiled from scratch, the age of the applicant, the judge assigned to the case, the type of disabling condition(s) and more. We have also had numerous cases where benefits were won within 30 days to a few short months. Every case is different. The national average is 18 months, or a year and a half. This means some cases take longer than 18 months, and some are much shorter.

Misconception #2.
Most disability claimants die before they have a hearing

It is possible and true in some cases that disability claimants do pass away before they have a hearing. However, if your doctor says that you are going to die from your medical condition, then the court will expedite your case and grant you an emergency hearing. Any attorney can arrange for this, and we at Balin Law certainly do this for our terminally ill clients.

Misconception #3.
All disability claimants get denied the first time

This is absolutely not true. We have worked with thousands of disability claimants who received benefits the first time they filed and claimants who received benefits within months from filing. The law is complex and there are three case types your claim can be put into: physical, mental, or combination cases.
Physical cases usually depend on the age of the applicant. The Social Security Administration recognizes that folks age 55 and older face challenges that younger folks do not. This means that a 40-year-old can get disability benefits the first time they apply, but they will face a more rigorous test than the 55+-year-old filing for disability for a physical condition.
Mental health cases are analyzed by the Social Security Administration under what’s called “sustainability issues.” Sustainability issues are regarded as understanding if the claimant was able to keep a job or not. Other cases can be looked at from the claimant’s “transferrable skills,” which means the claimant transitions into easier work than they once had. The Social Security Administration puts together a chart for transferrable skills. This can be a little confusing, so we encourage you to call us with questions.
Certain conditions are automatically considered disabling. For example, certain cancers are automatically disabling. Certain rapid-growing medical conditions are also considered automatic disabling. The bottom line here is that every case is different.

Misconception #4.
If I keep appealing my disability case, I will eventually get benefits

Not necessarily. Take a look at this chart:
source: disabilityjudges.com as of 04/28/2023

You can see that every major city in Ohio has different statistics for disability claims being approved, denied, or dismissed. Akron, Ohio has a 44 percent rate of approved cases vs. a 40 percent rate of denied cases with 16 percent of cases being dismissed. A case can be dismissed for several reasons. A claimant can fail to show up to the hearing or fail to follow treatment (or there was a lack of treatment). Another reason can be that a claimant went back to work after recovery. Again, every case is different.

It’s important to hire an experienced attorney when filing or appealing a disability claim. An experienced lawyer can prepare you for a hearing, go over what to expect, but also align your case so it stands the best chance to win benefits. Balin Law’s win rate for approved cases in Ohio is higher than the average win rate of 44 percent.

Misconception #5.
My doctor said I was disabled, so I will get benefits

Contrary to popular belief, doctors rarely provide an opinion in Social Security disability cases. The Social Security rules specifically say that “the determination of disability is reserved to the Commissioner.” This means that scan reports, treatment notes, surgical reports and other medical reports are key even if an opinion from a physician is presented. No one receives disability benefits just because their doctor says they are disabled.

Misconception #6.
I have to “look disabled” to get disability benefits

Claimants often come in saying their neighbor or acquaintance got disability benefits when nothing was wrong with them. Sometimes, we see people and just by looking at them, you would not expect them to have a disabling condition. But then a couple of hours later, they are suicidal, homicidal or having panic attacks, fainting, etc. A “disabled look” can be very deceiving. There are several “invisible disabilities” such as fibromyalgia or chronic pain.

Misconception #7.
Prisoners can never get disability benefits

There are disability claimants that are determined mentally impaired that are incarcerated and released from prison. Some of these claimants who were incarcerated were on disability before prison and are now in a position that they have to prove disability all over again.

There is a very helpful law that allows those individuals to be reinstated benefits for Social Security Disability. Additionally, a prior finding of disability under Supplemental Security Income is also critically helpful. It seems that prison warehouses so many mentally impaired people that really need mental health treatment and services and incarceration rarely helps those impairments.

Misconception #8.
Alcoholics and drug abusers can't get disability benefits

This is untrue. It’s disappointing that claimants who have a substance abuse or alcohol abuse problem can face discrimination. If there is a disabling mental impairment—which there usually is—the substance abuse or alcoholism will muck up the claim ONLY if the substance abuse/alcoholism are material factors contributing to the disability.

In other words, if there would still be a disabling condition, in spite of the substance abuse, you can win disability benefits! Also, if you cannot parse out how someone would be without the abuse, you can win disability benefits! The tie goes to the claimant, and rightfully so. Alcoholism and substance abuse are horrible impairments that are often evident in people facing mental disabilities.

Worried About the Cost?

Misconception #9.
I can't afford to hire a lawyer - I don't have any money!

The 9th major misconception that we almost forgot about... the cost. Lawyers in other areas of practice, such as Divorce Attorneys or Criminal Defense, often charge some kind of Retainer Fee to get started.

For the vast majority of our clients, it's completely free to get started and they never have to pay anything out of pocket. We only get paid if/when you get paid benefits. You'll never even have to write a check because Social Security will pay us directly, 25% of the past-due benefits they owe you. For many, that's 25% of money they would never have seen otherwise.

Visit our Pricing page if you're worried that was a typo!

We are Here to Help!

As you can see, there are a lot of misconceptions around Social Security disability. We encourage you to contact us for a free consultation if you need disability benefits. We are here to help!