Common Misconceptions Regarding Social Security Disability in New Hampshire and New England

As a Social Security Lawyer practicing in New Hampshire for many years, I have come across numerous misconceptions about the system.  We are many times contacted by individuals who are either looking to file an initial claim for benefits or who have recently been denied benefits based on either misinformation they have received from friends or family or their own misconception as to what one needs to prove in order to qualify for benefits and the manner in which payment takes place if indeed one is approved for benefits.

One of the most common misunderstandings about the system is that it is important to apply as quickly as possible after going out of work as a result of a severely disabling medical impairment.  In fact, this common mistake is the reason a great many individuals are denied on their initial applications. Most individuals considering an application for either Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSDI) do not understand that in order to be approved for benefits under either program it is necessary to show that they have been or they are likely to be totally disabled from all forms of gainful employment for a year or longer (or that the medical condition is likely to result in death). This is many times difficult to show when applying simply a month of two after going out of work.  Assuming one is denied initially in NH, then one will be proceeding to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge as part of their appeal.  The judge hearing the case is likely going to wonder why someone applied as early as they did, and didn’t wait to see if their condition might improve.

Likewise, most individuals applying for SSDI benefits do not understand that benefits are not payable for the first 5 full months they are disabled. And so, if one were to go out of work as of January  6, 2016 and call our office today, they would receive the advice that they will need to show that their condition is likely to remain severe and disabling for the next year (that is, until January 6, 2017) and that benefits are not payable for the months of February, March, April, May and June, with a first check being payable for the month of July, made payable in August.  Thus there is no reason to apply for benefits within a few months of going out of work, that is, unless they might qualify for the welfare SSI benefit (which is payable the month after one applies, assuming one remains in poverty circumstances and, once again, they are likely to remain disabled for a year or longer).  Obviously, it is very difficult in many cases to show that one will remain disabled for a year or longer if they have just gone out of work.  However, if one does not have savings in the amount of $2000 or more or income in their household that would bring them over the poverty line, consideration should be given to applying early for Social Security benefits even if a denial is likely.  The Social Security Administration does have a helpful financial screening tool which will help you determine whether you might qualify financially for an SSI benefit: only assuming there is a potential for SSI benefits should one even consider applying shortly after going out of work.

Another commonly held notion is that it is acceptable to apply for unemployment benefits and Social Security disability benefits at the same time. When one puts in an application for unemployment benefits, it is required that the individual confirm with the Department of Labor that they are actively pursuing work and ordinarily requires them to check in weekly and confirm that they are “available for gainful employment.” While on some occasions an application for unemployment benefits may be appropriate while awaiting a determination, the majority of the time it would be inconsistent for one to apply for Social Security disability benefits at the same time given one is stating by filing such a Social Security disability application that they are currently disabled from all forms of gainful employment.   As our website notes with reference to unemployment benefits, it is always important to seek the advice and assistance of an experienced New Hampshire Social Security lawyer to advise you as to whether an application for both types of benefits is appropriate in your individual circumstance.

Also, many individuals who are considering an application for Social Security disability benefits will apply as they have experienced an injury or illness which is keeping them from performing their ordinary occupation.  What is commonly misunderstood is that the Social Security laws are not meant to provide individuals with a disability check if they are simply incapable of performing the very demanding job they are accustomed to performing.  Many individuals will contact our office as they are disabled from working their prior position that might have been a skilled position as an executive (but they have now become disabled as a result of, let’s say, a mental health impairment from performing such skilled work), or might have been a labor intensive position such as construction (but they have now become disabled as a result of, let’s say, a back condition).  The Social Security rules do require that one prove they remain disabled from all forms of gainful employment.  Thus, the executive or construction worker may now need to consider whether they could now perform a full time job as a parking garage attendant, for example, making simply $1130.00 per month (the amount specified by law as constituted Substantial Gainful Activity for 2016).   There are exceptions to this rule insofar as the Social Security rules do provide that as one ages it becomes more difficult to transfer to a different line of work (and this would be especially for those who worked a job that required a more physical exertion than simply that of a sit down type of position): these rules are set forth in Social Security’s Grid rules.

These are just a few examples of commonly misheld beliefs regarding the Social Security disability program.  For a proper, analysis of your potential claim, it is always wise to get the advice and assistance of an experienced New Hampshire Social Security lawyer contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith for your free consultation at 1- 800-773-8622 or feel free to contact us on line.