Over the years I have received a lot of phone calls in Dallas-Fort Worth from people wondering if they should file a claim for social security disability. Here are the most common questions in this area:
1. “I’m still working, but my doctor says that I am disabled. Can’t I file for social security disability?”
The answer is “No” , but as my fellow Texan Ross Perot once said, “the devil is in the details”. You cannot be going to your normal 9-5 job getting paid as usual and be able to file a social security disability claim. Often times, however, someone will tell me that they are still working, when in fact they are out on short-term or long-term disability, FMLA, etc, but are still technically employed. These folks can file a claim for social security disability because they are not “working” as that term is defined by social security.
A further area of some confusion centers on part-time work. Many people have had to cut back work hours as a result of their impairment, and wonder whether they can or should file for social security disability. Many callers commonly report that they have heard that “social security will let you make up to a certain amount”. They are referring to the fact that work resulting in monthly income below a certain threshold is not “substantial gainful activity” and therefore is not considered work for purposes of social security disability. My experience in Dallas Fort Worth and in Texas is that social security administration representatives are somewhat inconsistent in whether they will take a social security disability application for someone who reports continued working at a reduced amount.
2. “I am waiting to get all my medical records together before I file for social security disability. Is this a good idea?”
No. This is not a good idea. Social Security has the responsibility of gathering your medical records. You do not need to.
3. “I’m not sure what disability program to file for. I have heard of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but I don’t know if I would qualify”
Filing for disability benefits is not a test of your knowledge of benefit programs. You are not expected to know whether you should file a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based upon a disability, Disability Widow’s Benefits, etc. Social Security representatives are trained to know what programs to file claimants for. And if a mistake is made (for example., a person could qualify for SSI, and no SSI application was taken), a claim can always be updated with the correct type of claim.
4. “I was told that I should wait to file for social security disability benefits until my worker’s compensation benefits end. Is that correct?”
No. It is true that social security law provides for an “”offset” of disability benefits based upon amounts received in worker’s compensation benefits in the state of Texas, and most states. But if you wait to file for social security disability until the worker’s compensation benefits stop, you could be looking at many months without an income until your social security disability benefits case is approved. On the other hand, if during the time of your worker’s compensation payments you had filed and been approved for social security disability, all it would take is for you to document the cessation of worker’s compensation payments, and the social security disability payments would start.
BOTTOM LINE: It is in general always better to file a claim for social security disability than not file. Filing for social security disability costs nothing. There is no penalty if your are denied, and you will not get in trouble with the government if it turns out you go back to work and are fine. On the other hand, procrastination is deadly in the social security disability arena. You really can permanently lose the right to benefits if you delay for too long.