When you learn that your illness or injury is likely to keep you from returning to work, you may begin considering financial assistance options to help cover your living expenses and keep you afloat. The federal government offers assistance through the Social Security Administration, but there is considerable confusion and misinformation regarding what may be available, and to whom.

Here are some common myths about Social Security Disability benefits that you may come across.

Myth #1: SSI and SSD benefits are the same

Supplemental Security Income is a separate program from Social Security Disability Insurance. Both provide financial assistance to people who cannot work due to a disability. However, SSI is for those who have no work history over the past 10 years. If you have been working, you have paid into the SSDI program through withholdings on your earnings. So, if you have worked for at least five years in the past 10, and your disabling condition has made it impossible for you to continue working, you may be eligible for SSD benefits.

Myth #2: Your disability must last for a year before you apply

The SSA only awards benefits when medical professionals anticipate that your injury or illness will last at least 12 months, but you do not have to wait until the end of that year to apply. You may want to file an application as soon as possible if your condition keeps you from returning to work.

Myth #3: A denied application is the end of the line

The SSA has an appeals process that involves four levels:

  • Reconsideration of the case before a different SSA representative
  • Hearing before an administrative law judge
  • Review before the Appeals Council
  • Lawsuit in a federal district court

Myth #4: The SSA denies everyone the first time

According to the SSA, about 22% of applicants receive benefits at the initial claim level. About 2% of applicants receive benefits at the reconsideration stage of the appeals process. Another 9% receive benefits after requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge. Over a 10-year period, the denial rate has hovered around 64%.