Myths and Facts About Social Security’s Disability Program

November 4, 2016 • By

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Last Updated: November 4, 2016

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Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications


  1. Manuel S.

    Are we able to ” pay” into SS.SSDI.SDI in order to qualify for benefits?
    Are earned credits out the window now?

    • Ray F.

      We use the Social Security taxes you and other workers pay into the system to pay Social Security benefits. Credits are the “building blocks” we use to find out whether you have the minimum amount of covered work to qualify for each type of Social Security benefits. When it comes to qualifying for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI), you must be “currently insured” or have worked long enough–and recently enough—under Social Security. See Insured Status Requirements for more information.

    • Charlotte

      Hiya, I’m really glad I have found this data. Today bloggers publish no more than gossips and also web and this is actually irritating. A great site with exciting articles, this is what I would like. Thank an individual for keeping this amazing site, I’ll always be visiting it. Do one does neelrwttess? Can not believe it is.

  2. Walter R.

    Yolanda, I hope that Trump wins too, so you can be sent back to your ancestors’ country and finally retire in peace.

  3. Bela

    The fraud is not generally perpetrated by the applicants, but by the system that takes years to approve a disabled person. Why does the system do this? So that the lawyers and court-appointed (usually psych) experts can get paid. If the system were legit, there would be a list of disabilities, and the applicant would be approved from that list in 30 days. Lawyers/advocates or any other leech would be forbidden to take a red cent from the disabled person’s award.

    • dji

      just so you know there is a list. and it’s very comprehensive. you show just how much you don’t know. the list is what is used. you need to have a lot of tests to show you qualify. but if you are really sick you are approved very quick. the 2 years part is because these people are on the bubble.

    • Lucy

      The list is there and is used. They also use the department of Education and someone else I forgot to determine of someone can do another job if deemed not able to do their chosen job. They look at all angles which is why it takes so long. I agree the lawyers muck up the system as much as the workers processing the claims but when its time to see the “judge” all is said and done and you sit there while the judge consults with the person who is looking up possible jobs the disabled can do or can’t do then the decision is made based on the list/education/retraining if possible

  4. Yolanda G.

    People who are on ss disability still continue to work but, get paid under the table. I would like to report the ones I know but, there are people who receive food stamps that shouldn’t so where do you stop all the fraud. Its all around us, America has gone so far down the tube in the past 8 years it may never recover. I would like to retire but I still HAVE to work to support myself at 72 years old and I hate that my hard earned dollars are going to all these illegals and lazy free loaders. maybe I can retire before I’m 80! Sick and tired!

    • Barbara C.

      Supporting a candidate who does not support minimum wage is hardly the way to ensure your retirement. And you SHOULD report fraud because the system fails when you don’t. And by the way, undocumented workers cannot receive either SSI or SSD.

      • C W.

        As a business owner the Govt. should not be telling me what I can or can not afford to pay someone to work for me period….also one myth that I see everyday is that people who are on disability are not able to do anything. They mow their yards, they shovel snow, they deer hunt, the work on cars, they haul bales of hay, now tell me they could not work in Walmart if they can do all of that? Fraud is rampant every where. I know of a person that is on SSDI because she says she can not be around a lot of people, yet she goes to crowded auctions and does just fine there. It is bull that that many people that are on the roles are actually unable to do something to maintain their sense of well being and pride…

        • J.

          C. Wilson you do know that some illnesses are invisible right? Or are you one of those people who play doctor from home? You do realize that we have to jump through hurdles and be re evaluated every so many years correct? Oh I am going to assume you know nothing of the above.

      • Lucy

        Yes they can collect and they do. Our government ships them in and supplies them with Food Stamps, Medicaid, disability. I live in Fla and see it with the Haitians, Muslims, Mexicans all of which are not citizens but illegals and “refugees”. Do not for a second think only “legal” can and do get because where there is a way they will get it!

        • DIANE

          they can’t get SSDI unless they are legal, have worked, and have paid into the system for the numbers of quarters and years that are required for SSDI. DI stands for disability Insurance. SSI is Supplemental Security Income for those who don’t qualify for SSDI.

        • carla

          Really, where do you get your information from? I’m curious, since the banks were at near collapse and housing foreclosures were at an extreme high, unemployment was at almost a near high by the end of Presidents Bush. All due respect to President Bush, I’m sure he wanted to do what was best for the country, but it wasn’t working out that way.

        • carla

          The majority of Refugees are bought to this Country by Churches. If you want to complain about how many refugees they bring in or who, contact the various religious organizations that are supported by Church donations. These are under missions and missionary work dollars.

    • Lee

      Are you forgetting that there is also a House & a Senate? Any President can not run a country by themselves.

      • Lucy

        Are you forgetting something called “Executive Order”? The president can operate on his own which is hard but possible.

        • Jstar

          As for example our current president that said he had a pen and a phone, indicating he didnt need congress!

    • Suzy

      If you see someone who you feel is truly committing fraud ( remember not all disabilities are visible to the eye though) then report it. The program doesn’t have the resources to follow around each person receiving benefits and therefore rely on fellow citizens to provide them the information they need to launch an investigation. The system works best when we all do our part to be their eyes and ears.

      • Ray F.

        Thank you for your comment Suzy. We take allegations of fraud very seriously. If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of Social Security benefits, we encourage you to report it.

        • Mr. a.

          The Social Security Administration loans out
          all this money to lawyers
          and takes it away from
          those that earned. Then
          they let unlicensed people
          into the court systems.
          Judges are supposed to be attoprneis or those with family members that are attornies like Caroline-
          she gave up and left the
          country. No lawyers will
          be around as they are throwing the lawyers that ran the law schools
          without federal money into the gutter. go to the law school that teaches
          you Rob Peter to pay Paul.

      • Mr. a.

        SSI persons by last name
        from Philadelphia, Pa and
        Pittsburgh, PA have forced
        major businesses to lose alot
        of money in profits by their lies
        and wanting to cut off legs
        with their own knives. The government failed to prosecute
        them and blamed the earners.
        Do with less-the payors are
        leaving the fucked up United States.

    • RW

      Amen, I’m sick and tired of the crooked politicians letting them in so they will vote for them,, illegals don’t deserve NOTHING.

    • ata

      To pay for all the freeloaders you’ll have to work until you are 167 years old.

    • dale f.

      I have witnessed and can concurr with what you 100% as I see the same thing going on around my area all the time but do not turn these people in either. There is more fraud in the system than they are willing to admit. What really bothers me is I worked hard and paid into the system for 45 years, served in military for six years and the Vietnam war. I fell off a roof onto concrete and shatterd both my ankles with metal in both legs and ankles, several surgeries, arthritus and limited mobility. I applied for disability when I was still in a wheel chair and could not walk with lots of pain and was also denied. I would have received a little more than my retirement but would also have to pursue it in court. I did not because of cost verses the extra amount. Four years later still suffering and still require more surgery over the three that I have been through. I was under for ten hours on one of them. I wish you well.

  5. Gary &.

    My wife was disabled at age 35 in 1980 by a brain aneurysm and stroke. When we applied for disability Social Security they concluded that she lacked one quarter (3 months) of having paid in enough to qualify for disability. My wife bore this in anguish for years as she wanted to feel that she was contributing in some way to our well-being as she was unable to contribute in any other way. Our congress person’s advice was for me to go to Washington and make a personal plea before congress so they might slip it in to another bill that might pass. Needless to say, I was unable to do that. In retrospect, had we known, we would have paid in that 3 months to SS, even though she wasn’t working.

    • Jstar

      Your congress person should have done that for you as that is what we elect them for.

    • ata

      So you would have gamed the system by paying an additional quarter of coverage.

      • Ray F.

        To clarify. You cannot get more credits by voluntarily contributing money to Social Security. You can earn credits only by working in a job or your own business that is covered under Social Security.

    • Ray F.

      To clarify. You cannot get more credits by voluntarily contributing money to Social Security. You can earn credits only by working in a job or your own business that is covered under Social Security.

  6. Dave K.

    This is great information to know. I work in a correctional facility in the State of Kansas as a Discharge Planner and file primarily SSI. We have a MOU with Social Security in Wichita KS I know that it a person becomes incarcerated we have to re-file after 12 months. Could there be a myths and facts email about incarceration and SSI? There are many questions about this in the correctional arena. .

  7. disappointed i.

    Here’s a myth for you – the ALJs are all not fair. Again, I suggest you take a good, hard look at Judge in the Chattanooga office. He is a legend in his own mind!!!

  8. Barbara C.

    I am so happy you’ve done this. As a lawyer with 30 years of practice in SSD work I am consistently explaining these things to people who call my office and to the public when speaking at seminars. I wish the American public knew how difficult it is to obtain these benefits and how reluctant the average worker is to apply. Thank you again.

    • ata

      Fact: Under this Administration getting on disability is far easier than it was before. Witness the expansion in the disability roles. And the average worker who is without a job is more than eager to apply. Stick to your legal profession and leave the explanation of getting benefits to the career politicians who try to expand programs as a bribe to get people to vote them into power.

      • Ms. L.

        I became disabled in 1973. I applied in 2010. I worked at whatever jobs I could find as long as I could possibly find work. I am proud of the fact that I was able to work as long as I did. I was denied when I applied. I appealed and was granted disability by a judge. It is not easy to get on disability. Maybe we have more applicants now because baby boomers are getting older and have more disabilities?
        Nobody wants to be disabled.

        • DIANE

          I was going to say the same thing about baby boomers. I became disabled in 1979 and have been on SSDI since 1980. I have worked part time work for most of these years, but I had to stop working altogether, 8 years ago. I was paying back into the system as I was working. I also volunteered with AmeriCorps VISTA for 2 years and created programs for youth in my community. I was working my way off of disability when I ended up having new medical issues and more major surgeries. It isn’t easy living with disabilities.

          • Patti

            It took me 2-3 years to get on SSDI. My attorney explicitly told me not to look for work. Follow the rules and then I was accepted into the program. It took me twice to get in. Its not a piece of cake anymore. Now you have to take an IQ test when you apply and have review! I had to move in with family and that is not fun. I live day-by-day trying to survive.

        • Butch

          I am not surprised that you are having problems with your doc. They think that they are above us mere mortals and that we should not ask them for anything other than what they grcisoualy bestow upon us.

  9. Tome W.

    Social Security disability is widely recognized by experts across the political spectrum as having a fraud rate well above any national norm. From the West Virginia judge who approved almost 100% of any claims for years, to the fact the total program has quadrupled over the past decade, following the 2008 economic meltdown. Progressives have increasingly used it to overturn Bill Clinton’s welfare reforms. This blog comes much closer to pure propaganda than any factual statements of truth.

    • Barbara C.

      The one instance you cite is an aberration based on vocational limitations of that geographic population as much as anything else. Your understanding is based on fear mongering by conservative politicians who should be more concerned about corporate fraud including but not limited to Wells Fargo and the actions that led to the total collapse of our economy in 2008.

      • ata

        Liberal policies led to the 2008 economic collapse if you bothered to do any research. You are spouting party talking points.

        • carla

          Really, where do you get your information from? I’m curious, since the banks were at near collapse and housing foreclosures were at an extreme high, unemployment was at almost a near high by the end of Presidents Bush. All due respect to President Bush, I’m sure he wanted to do what was best for the country, but it wasn’t working out that way.

        • Todd

          The only “liberal policies” leading to the 2008 crash were those of the financial sector. No, it wasn’t poor homeowners either, which is an absurdity – especially for the greatest world economy. The main problem was due to flagrantly bundle debt into “derivatives,” which made sure that the rich executives got their money. So instead of denying them, they crashed the economy, worldwide.
          It fell to the Bush jr. economic policies, especially. Job creation was virtually nil. By the time of the end of his term, the economy was bleeding jobs from every corner.

    • Patricia L.

      Hmm. Then again the ALJ who oversaw my hearing, on average, approves just 17% of his cases. (national average is 43% at the hearing phase.)

      That judge ignored the SSA examiner’s report which was in my favor, and cherry picked my three doctor’s reports (also all in my favor) for a few periods of wellness, and he ignored the rest. I took the case to Fed. Ct, was granted a remand since the ALJ had “ignored evidence in the file,” and “formed his own medical opinion.” I had another hearing before the same ALJ three years after the first, and was awarded benefits by this hanging judge.
      Of course, the whole process ONLY took 5.5 years, and I was 60 by then. I had also lost my house and got to file my first bankruptcy 6 months before the final judgment. Held out as long as I could.
      What a piece of cake, huh??? No stress at all! I still have rich fantasies about the death of that ALJ and I still wish him harm, though I would never do anything myself. You bet I’m bitter about it.

      I clearly pulled the shortest one.

  10. David

    aren’t you people ashamed for just giving us a paltry 3 dollars COLA this year??? Real life says that Insurance (both home and auto), clothing, shoes, Rent Phone, Cable, Medicare Part D, Auto License and Registration fees, Water and Sewer, Power and Home Heating,……….all go up….not just Gasoline and Food as you base the COLA on. The current Administration has lost a huge volume of Votes for their party because of this. Including mine!!!

    • Bruce

      I think they are being prudent in an election cycle that could bring focus on the program crashing down. I wish for more, but I think there is an election outcome that could change our lives 100x worse than not getting a truly proportionate COLA increase. I hope people are voting to support those who have been aiding the disabled, responsibly.

      • Susan

        Please do not support the someone that makes fun of disable people, because you never know when it will happen to you.

        • jw

          Both have

          • RW

            Vote Trump.. Get an honest non political person in there,,

          • Edtechmommy

            Do NOT vote Trump! He makes fun of soooo many people for being visibly different from him, including disabled and veterans! He would be DANGEROUS as a commander of our country!!

          • rick

            I would rather trust Mr T for the little he said than ms C who has criminally SOLD out ALL the US, and only enriches herself..then LIES to all of us LOOK at what u see

        • Syd

          Very true

        • Gloria S.

          This is absolutely true!

        • Allie

          gtomr,Thanks for the interesting maps!The first map included Usando as a long-shaped island like a yeel and next to the island, there is another island. In the island there is a Chinese writings: “å¤æ泶属·—¥åœ¬” (foreign island that belongs to Japan) and “近于野人” (near to Usando’s people???) – what do you think?

      • Patti

        Thank you. I agree with your comments 100%.

    • Berta

      Speak for yourself. They haven’t lost my vote!!

    • Dennis

      The COLA is based on a formula related to the CPI and enacted by Congress many years ago. It’s not political. It’s not a choice Social Security Administration makes. Only Congress can enact a supplemental emergency increase if they think it’s needed, or change the formula.

      • Bob

        Congress hasn’t addressed SS in a very long time. Why should they. They have the best health care in the world, the best retirement plan in the world, that we pay for. It may take a while to weed out these deadbeats that claim they’re for the little guy, but are only there, for themselves. Maybe then, they can concentrate on what’s important FOR THE PEOPLE, with SS, being at the top of the list.

        • Momx4

          I wish people would stop saying that people who are Disabled have it easy, they are “Living off the money paid in from THEIR paychecks!”
          Um, don’t you nitwits realize that Disabled people have also paid into SS? When they were able to work BEFORE whatever TRAGEDY has left them having to apply for SSD, YES, they WORKED AND PAID INTO IT JUST LIKE YOU! I can only hope n pray nothing happens to YOU leaving you with no other option than to apply!

          • Robert

            true. IF they do not have a Track Work Record? It goes by the next of kin (parent or parents). So it is never based off other peoples taxes. Nor is it a Govt Fund, Entitlement Program, or any kind of Govt Assistance Program paid for by Govt Taxes.

          • Tom

            some do that is true, but If you and your growing family who are disabled and never will work or pay a nickle into the system are receiving payments starting with the first day of your life, that is not a good thing and a very serious problem for the RETIREMENT fund and a major reason the account is going broke,and fast.I myself know many people you are collecting dis.payments and every single one of them can and do work off the books.

      • Helen

        its time for social security to do something more for all the recipients 0f social security. I cannot make ends meet and have to go without food every month and cannot pay my car or cable bill. what am it suppose to do as I am on permanent disability?

        • Eddo M.

          Helen is csorrect. Am on SS full benefits–SSA, SSI, Food Stamps, and Medicare-Medicaid. However, I lost my SSI, Food Stamps, and Medicare-Medicaid health insurance when I went abroad to retire because I was afraid of winter.

          Since I left, I have been on a very tight budget so that most of the time forgo my medicines and going hunger, and cut my utilities. I have to beg to survive. The law on benefits must be amended soonest by the incoming Administration.
          It is so unfair for Senior U.S. Citizen who opted to live abroad to avoid unbearable winter conditions.

          • DIANE

            What was your source of income while living overseas?

        • Kelly

          Downsize your car and cable bill. SSDI is not luxury insurance! I made $125K the last year before I became disabled with brain surgery. I had to learn to live on less than 20% of that amount. With discipline and constant attention on expenses, I have extra money each month.
          If you are going without food then these are absolute no-no’s.
          Cigarettes, Sodas, Lottery, Premium gas, recreational drugs, newly acquired monthly drafts, etc.

          • Donna

            I can’t understand people buying lottery tickets or junk on SSDI, it seems wrong. I don’t even own a car, I could never afford it. I am only able to rent a room and it takes half of everything.

      • Ray F.

        Thank you for your comment Dennis. The Social Security Act provides for an automatic increase in Social Security and SSI benefits only if there is an increase in inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). For additional information, please go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

    • Mel

      The COLA formula is set by law.
      The administration does not set the COLA rate.
      Elect a Congress that cares about older and disabled people and they can pass a law that changes the formula

      • Patti

        Good luck.

    • john

      my friend who is on disability got no raise because medicare took it away

      • john

        in 2017 no raise

      • Ray F.

        You’re right John, for some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase (COLA) may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.

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