Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Common Pitfalls

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.

If you don’t report changes in your income, you’re risk getting an overpayment. If Social Security overpays you, you will likely be held responsible for paying that money back.

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:

If you’re on Medi-Cal or any other public health care program, be sure to report changes in your income to your local county social services agency.

Note: Due to COVID-19, there may be limits on in-person services. Contact your agency by phone to ask about this.

Lack of Documentation

The more specifically you document your medical condition, the easier it will be to support a claim for SSDI benefits. Documenting in a daily medical journal can be of great value. If you can't make the journal entries yourself, a friend or relative can log the entries. This journal can also supply you with a way to inform providers about your medical condition.

Not sharing information with your medical provider

Many people do not clearly discuss their plans to apply for benefits with their doctor and other medical providers. Ideally, you and your medical provider should share all information to assess the duration and severity of your disabling condition. If you don't do this, you may end up with an application for disability benefits that does not reflect how long you have had your disabling condition or how it affects your day-to-day activities.

Confusing SSDI, SDI, and SSI

Three disability benefits have very similar names: SSDI, SDI, and SSI.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that gives a cash benefit to people with long-term disabilities who qualify because they used to work or have family members who worked.
  • State Disability Insurance (SDI) is a state program that gives a cash benefit for one year or less to Californians with disabilities who worked before becoming disabled.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that gives a cash benefit to people who have disabilities and have low income and resources. You do not need to have worked in the past to get SSI.

You may be able to qualify for more than one of these programs at the same time. For example, if you become disabled, you might get SDI at first and later start getting SSDI. If you get SSDI and also have low resources, you may quailfy for SSI as well. Make sure you know which benefits you get and which you might qualify for if you applied.

Waiting Until After State Disability Insurance (SDI) Ends To File

Many individuals in California do not know that they can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance while receiving State Disability Insurance. If you wait until State Disability Insurance ends to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance, you could be without income during the 1-6 months Social Security is making a decision on your disability claim. It is recommended that you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance while you are still receiving State Disability Insurance.

Learn more