Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Common Pitfalls

Confusing SSDI, SSI, and SDI

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

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.

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.

You also need to let Social Security know if your address changes, if you get any other disability benefits, such as Workers’ Compensation, or if you use any SSDI deductions when figuring out your income. If you don’t report your earnings, you may have to pay back the SSDI benefits you get to Social Security.

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:

Note: If you get both SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you must report your income to SSDI and SSI separately. Learn more about SSI income reporting in DB101's SSI article.

Lack of documentation

The better you document your medical condition, the more likely you are to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Having a daily medical diary can help. If you can't write in the diary yourself, a friend or relative can help you. The diary can also tell providers about your medical condition.

When you start getting benefits, you should also get a binder and keep copies of all of your records from the last five years in it, including:

Take your binder with you whenever you go to a Social Security office or meet with a benefits counselor. Take notes in your binder every time you communicate with Social Security, a benefits counselor, or other agency about your SSDI benefits.

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.

Not sharing information with your medical provider

Talk about your plans to apply for SSDI benefits with your doctors and other medical providers. Work with them to figure out how your disability affects your life and how long it will last. This can help you make sure your application for benefits correctly reflects how long you have had your disability and how it affects you.

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