Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Common Pitfalls

Not knowing which Social Security benefits you get

Social Security has two disability benefits programs with very similar names:

Some people qualify for both programs at the same time. If you get benefits from Social Security, but aren’t sure which ones you get, open a free my Social Security account or order a free Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) at your local Social Security office or by calling 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).

Not reporting your earnings

For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must tell Social Security right away if:

  • You start or stop work
  • You reported your work, but your duties, hours, or pay change; or
  • You start paying expenses for work because of your disability.

You also need to let Social Security know if your address changes, if you get any other disability benefits, such as Workers’ Compensation, or if you use any SSDI deductions when figuring out your income. If you don’t report your earnings, you may have to pay back the SSDI benefits you get to Social Security.

To report changes, contact your local Social Security office and ask how and when you should report your earnings. You may be able to report:

Note: If you get both SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you must report your income to SSDI and SSI separately. Learn more about SSI income reporting in DB101's SSI article.

Lack of documentation

The better you document your medical condition, the more likely you are to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Having a daily medical diary can help. If you can't write in the diary yourself, a friend or relative can help you. The diary can also tell providers about your medical condition.

When you start getting benefits, you should also get a binder and keep copies of all of your records from the last five years in it, including:

Take your binder with you whenever you go to a Social Security office or meet with a benefits counselor. Take notes in your binder every time you communicate with Social Security, a benefits counselor, or other agency about your SSDI benefits.

Not sharing information with your medical provider

Talk about your plans to apply for SSDI benefits with your doctors and other medical providers. Work with them to figure out how your disability affects your life and how long it will last. This can help you make sure your application for benefits correctly reflects how long you have had your disability and how it affects you.

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