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Common Myths About Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

1. No one is approved on the initial application.The truth is that as many as 50 to 60% of applicants are denied based on their initial applications for benefits. But there any many things you can do to put your best foot forward in advocating for yourself. Though there are no guarantees, we have a number of articles on that can help you make your best case for benefits.

2. Certain health conditions are automatically approved for benefits.

3. Certain health conditions are ineligible for benefits.
Many people mistakenly believe that no one with conditions such as migraines or fibromyalgia are eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The truth is that every case is unique and is considered on its own merits. For example, I was approved for SSDI benefits for being
unable to work due to chronic migraines and depression.

4. If my doctor says I am disabled I am entitled to SSDI benefits. Your doctor’s take on your situation is undoubtedly a key piece of your disability application. But the Social Security Administration must determine whether you meet their definition of “disabled.” Only then can you be awarded benefits. Sometimes a doctor believes a person is not able to work, but the SSA disagrees. This point underscores the importance of tailoring the information you submit to make sure it meets the SSA’s definition of disability.

5. Filing for benefits is giving up on ever getting better.
Filing for benefits is simply an acknowledgment that for the time being you are unable to work. Hopefully in the future you might be able to return to a job. Social Security has a great return to work program to help ease the transition back into the work force.

6. You must be in dire financial straights to qualify. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is only for people with limited resources, but Social Security Disability (SSD) may be available to you regardless of income level.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Morris Creedon-McVean
    8 years ago

    I am scheduled for my second exam/evaluation in 6 months. The above information is generally correct. It’s rare that disablility is caused by a single “disease” or condition, especially with older patients. I am a 63 year old physician with a lifetime of debilitating migraines I inherited from my father. The triptans (Imitrex} were very helpful from their introduction in the late 80’s until about 18 months ago. I started having more headaches (daily instead of 2-3 per week) and the Imitrex stopped working. I had also started having backpain in1998; the main aggrevation was sitting in an upright condition. The back pain would wake me from sleep after 5 hours at the most. MRI’s showed mild to moderate degenerative disease from C1 to L5 in 2009. Two brain MRI’s in the last 2 years showed scarring from small strokes believed to be caused by elevation of blood pressure during the pain of severe migraines. This is new information and few doctors know about it. For a very few years researchers have known that migraines cause brain damage. Prior, it was believed to have no permanent effects. Now is is considered a systemic disease and it is of utmost importance for migraine patients to be on blood pressure medications to help prevent these small strokes. Fortunately, several blood pressure medications help reduce the frequence and severity of the headaches. I have been taking a beta blocker called atenolol since 1995. Now I wake up almost every day with a migraine and take a triptan called. The headache pain goes away but I still have all the other symptoms of migraine: malaise, mental sluggishness, lack of motivation, nausea, poor balance. On a good day by noon I feel good enough to do something, but my condition greatly limits what I can do. Mostly I do photography, a lifetime interest. I cannot do any house work, yark work, or any task which requires sitting in an upright position for more that 30 min. so, traveling is almost impossible.
    There are other complications to my situation, bu I hope this gives you an idea of the complexity. The SSI is not in the business of granting benefits; they do everything they can to deny them. Be prepared to fight for everything you get. Learn as much as you can about your condition. Don’t assume the doctor that does your exam and evaluation knows anything. My first exam was done by a retired pathologist, which means he had not examined or treated a patient for anything in at least 30 years. he spent his career looking through a microscope. He was incompetent to exam me or evaluate my condition. He knew nothing about migraines, especially the new information and had never treated a patient with chronic pack pain. But he gets paid to turn people down so he dictated a report stating that his opinion was that I was not disabled, stating no reasons or facts to support his decision. Be prepared to hire a lawyer who is experienced with these cases.

  • Margaret Olseene Lindell
    8 years ago

    You’ve helped me so much, I’m sorry you are having such a hard time. In no way am I trying to down play your migraines, however, I just read eating ice cream fast and getting a “brain freeze” stops a migraine. Worth a try.

  • Marcy Sirrub
    8 years ago

    I applied for SSDI on a lark after leaving my city job (as city bus driver) because I had serious concerns for the safety of the public when I had a migraine attack or had to take my meds and had to be behind the wheel of a huge bus. I applied in April and was approved by the end of July the same year. SSA asked for all of my medical records and contact info for every doctor I had seen as well as personal contact information to friends or relatives who have seen my illness first hand. In addition to all of this info I also went to each hospital records department and got a print out of each time I had gone to the ER for treatment for my severe migraine attacks. And lastly I went to my optometrist to get a statement from her about how she has documented how my vision changes greatly before, during and after a migraine attack and how she’s found it extremely difficult to dilate and test my eyes because of the effects of this disease.

    I met my SSA rep in person and provided all of that info to SSA. I seriously felt stupid when I was going through the interview process and I felt like I really shouldn’t even be applying because no one takes Migraine disease seriously so why would this government agency. After leaving the SSA office I prepared myself to have to wait for a year or more for an answer.I also thought that I should consider getting an attorney because of those TV commercials saying how SSA denies all sorts of Disability claims.

    My SSA rep called every doctor, checked every hospital record, contacted my family and friends and former employer! I didn’t know she’d contact the former employer but I was glad cause they find out just how serious my illness is, when they themselves thought migraine was just a headache and that it couldn’t be too serious. The 2 people that were contacted by phone (my sister & my aunt broke down on the phone when discussing my condition. I gave her 6 people to call & didn’t advise those people that SSA would be calling them – just to insure their answers were true & honest. The 4 other who didn’t get calls got letters form SSA and cited specific instances where I was totally incapacitated by this disease and how its effected our relationship and my ability to work. The SSA doctor assigned to me called me asked a few questions then he reviewed all documentation then I prepared myself for the worst case scenario a rejection.

    I was shocked when in July on my 37th birthday I got a letter saying please call your SSA rep immediately. I thought the worst. I called her, she asked me to come to the office asap. I did. I sat at her desk and she pulled out papers and said you’ve been approved this the information on how SSDI works. They actually reviewed all documentation as I said and decided that I had actually should have been considered seriously disabled more two than years prior to my applying. I was told by the SSA rep that I was the first migrainuer that she had encountered who was approved for SSDI. She said that the fact that I sought medical attention back when I was 24 and kept going to doctors and seeking a diagnosis, treatment and help had allowed them to make a rapid determination that I was indeed disabled by the disease.

    I am grateful that I was approved for SSDI. I have talked with and met out migraineur who are suffering with work and the disease and weren’t even aware that SSDI was a possibility. I always tell migraineurs I met to go to a neurologist get professional medical treatment. Keep records your visits, medications and trips to the ER. And if you need to see if you qualify for SSDI. Like I said I’m surprised I did.

  • Joanna Scoby
    9 years ago

    I applied for benefits and was approved on my first application. I know this is a rare thing. I think the difference in my application was that I had everything filled out before I went to see them. I had a lot of information on every treatment I had tried for my migraines. The person I saw to finish the application said that she had never had anybody come in with that much information before. So if you’re applying, make sure you put everything on the application!

  • Kim Giffin
    9 years ago

    I know that I havent worked long enough to get SSD. I have diabetes with bad circulation problems and my Doc told me i could not work because of the bad circulation I had to my legs and feet. that was back in 2003. Now due to a bad luick with a triple AAA repair I have what they call right foot drop I am now really disabled and cant even stand up in a shower on my ow or drive a car. would it be possible for me to get SSD if I would apply for it?

  • Jamie
    9 years ago

    I worked part time for a few years and then full time for a couple of years, and I was able to qualify for SSD. So, it is possible to earn the “credits” required to qualify for benefits. People can go online to request a Social Security Statement; which will show a lot of information, including the number of credits earned to date, and the amount of SSD they would qualify for if they became disabled.

  • Diana-Lee author
    9 years ago

    Yes, that is correct, Kelly. A general guideline is that you must have worked 5 of the last 10 years, but that isn’t hard or fast.

  • Kelly, FlyWithHope
    9 years ago

    You said that SSD is available regardless of income level. But, it is true you have to have worked a certain length of time to qualify, correct?

    Unfortunately, a few of the years I worked were for a school district, so I did not get SS taken out of my check. But I didn’t work long enough at the school district to qualify for their disability. So, I got screwed as far as being able to qualify for disability.

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