If you are thinking of or are in the process of applying for disability benefits through Social Security, you may wonder if your employer will find out. Although the answer is “probably not,” there may be some circumstances under which your former employer may be contacted.
Social Security offers disability benefits through two different programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). When you apply for benefits through either program, you are alleging that you are disabled and cannot work for a period of at least twelve consecutive months. The exact criteria that you must meet is more complicated than that, but that is the general idea.
Since your eligibility for SSDI or SSI benefits will be based on whether you are able to work, your work history is an extremely important piece of the application process. Social Security must be able to classify your past jobs properly, and it must fully understand your work duties. Similarly, the person evaluating your claim (the disability examiner or, later, the administrative law judge) must be able to see the difficulties your disability causes that keep you from being able to perform your job.
If Social Security cannot see a clear connection between your disability and your inability to meet your job requirements, you will not be approved for benefits. Therefore, although Social Security will show deference to the work history report you complete as part of your application process, the disability examiner may contact your former employer to clarify parts of that history or obtain additional information that may have an impact on your claim. He or she may wish to know what you were required to do and what demands were placed on you that are now impossible tasks for you to complete based on your disability.
The disability examiner may also need to determine your capabilities before you became disabled so that he or she can compare that prior state to your current level of ability. Please note that it is possible to suffer from a severe disability that does not affect your ability to do your job; in such cases, you will be denied benefits, not because you are not disabled, but because you can still work.
Outside of the above circumstances, however, your employer will not be contacted. Be sure to fill out your application thoroughly and clearly. If you have any doubts, seek out the advice of a trusted Social Security disability benefits attorney who has the experience helpful to connect all the dots for a disability examiner reviewing your claim.