Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

Demystifying the Five Biggest Myths of SSI & SSDI Benefits

This article is part of our new Summer Series lineup that will take you through the ins and outs of some common government benefits programs that many people utilize post-brain injury, including SSDI, SSI, Medicaid, Medicare, and more!

DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this article is not intended to be comprehensive and is not official legal advice. Its purpose is to provide you with insights and direction to help you access the resources most appropriate to your individual situation. You should consult a professional regarding documentation, additional questions, etc.

Your recent brain injury may have left you unable to work, either temporarily or long-term. When applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) to help you stay afloat post-injury, you’ll likely encounter what appear to be conflicting “facts.” Unfortunately, much of this information can be inaccurate or untrue.

Fortunately, the truth is out there, and we’re here to help you separate fact from fiction. Below are the five biggest myths regarding SSI and SSDI benefits debunked.

MYTH #1 — You need to be disabled for a year before applying for SSDI benefits.

FALSE: If you are disabled by an injury or illness that has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or more (or is terminal), you may qualify for SSDI benefits.

The moment you receive one of these diagnoses, you should apply for benefits. This process is often a long and frustrating one, especially if you have a brain injury, which can be challenging to prove. Start the application as soon as you believe you are eligible.

MYTH #2 — You cannot hold a job of any kind and receive SSI or SSDI benefits.

FALSE: Special rules allow those between the ages of 18-64 who are interested in working to receive SSI or SSDI and also hold a job. Social Security’s free and voluntary Work Incentive program “Ticket to Work” allows you to be employed at least part time and still receive your monthly benefits. Since living off either SSI or SSDI alone is hard for many, this program eases the financial strain and can provide full-time re-entry into the workforce when possible.

However, if you earn more than the allowable maximum (In 2020, $1,260 for applicants with disabilities and $2,110 for blind applicants), you will become ineligible for benefits.

Note: You can also enjoy a nine-month trial work period without affecting your benefits, regardless of how much you earn.

For more information, check out the resources available through Ability 360 and the AZ Disability Benefits 101 websites.

MYTH #3 — Your medical condition needs to be in the “Blue Book.”

FALSE: The “Blue Book” is a listing of mental and physical impairments that inhibit you from productive activity. If your impairment is listed, it usually means you qualify for SSDI benefits.

However, if it’s not listed, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will determine if your condition prevents you from doing the same or similar work you were able to do prior to your injury and thus whether you meet the criteria for benefits approval.

MYTH #4 — Once you obtain SSDI benefits, you are considered permanently disabled.

FALSE: Many people believe this because once you receive benefits, you can potentially receive them for life.

The SSA reviews each individual case to see if their definition of “disability” is being met. If you are expected to recover, your case will be reviewed within six to 18 months after you begin receiving benefits. If your recovery is considered “possible,” your case is normally reviewed no sooner than three years after benefits begin, and if you are not expected to recover, your case is typically reviewed about every seven years. Benefits end when at least one of the following occurs:

  • You return to work and earn more than the allowable maximum (In 2020, $1,260 for applicants with disabilities and $2,110 for blind applicants).
  • Your medical condition improves, and you are no longer considered disabled

MYTH #5 — Hiring a lawyer to help you file or appeal a benefit claim costs too much.

FALSE: Lawyers are usually hired on a contingency basis, meaning their fee is a percentage of the benefits you are awarded (including back pay). This percentage should be discussed in your first meeting with an attorney.

If you have any questions about your specific SSI/SSDI situation, please call the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona’s Resource Facilitation Team at 1-888-500-9165 or email

Remember, you don’t have to struggle through this process alone. BIAAZ is here to assist and connect survivors of brain injury, their families, and professionals with free resources and information.

And that’s no myth.


The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness, and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members, and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts the Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Workgroup
  • Deploys a  Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response Team with peer support, training and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates the Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages a Statewide Neuro Info-Line 888-500-9165


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