Social Security Disability Knowledge Center
Our law firm welcomes you to our Social Security Disability Knowledge Center. We hope you’ll find this page to be a valuable resource for you and your family as you learn more about disability eligibility, the types of benefits available, the SSDI application process, and what you’ll need to file your claim.
At Ankin Law, our SSDI attorneys are committed to helping people with disabilities understand more about their rights.
In Chicago, call an experienced SSDI lawyer at Ankin Law for a free, no obligation case evaluation. (312) 600-0000.
Table of Contents
How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits
Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) involves several steps and careful attention to detail to improve the chances of a successful claim. Here’s a guide on how to apply for Social Security Disability benefits:
- Prepare Documentation: Gather relevant documents including medical records, doctor’s reports, test results, employment history, and financial information. Ensure all documents are accurate and up-to-date.
- Determine Eligibility: Understand the eligibility criteria for SSDI and SSI. SSDI requires applicants to have earned enough work credits, while SSI is based on financial need and disability status.
- Complete the Application: File an application online through the Social Security Administration (SSA) website, by phone, or by scheduling an appointment at your local SSA office. Provide detailed information about your medical condition, work history, and other required details.
- Follow Instructions Carefully: Pay close attention to the instructions provided by the SSA. Any inaccuracies or incomplete information could delay your claim or cause it to be denied.
- Keep Track of Your Claim: Note the date of your application and any reference numbers provided by the SSA. Keep copies of all documents submitted and correspondence with the SSA for reference.
- Be Patient and Persistent: The disability claims process can be lengthy. It might take several months for the SSA to review your application and make a decision. If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision within a specified timeframe.
- Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer: An experienced Social Security Disability attorney will be able to guide you through the claims process, improving your chances of success.
- Stay Informed: Stay updated on the status of your claim and respond promptly to any requests for additional information from the SSA to avoid delays or a denial.
What Is the Definition of Disability According to the SSA?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines disability as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. The impairment must prevent an individual from performing work the person did before or adjusting to other types of work due to the medical condition. Additionally, the disability must meet the severity level outlined in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments or significantly limit an individual’s functional capacity to perform basic work-related tasks, considering their age, education, and work experience. This definition forms the basis for determining eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
What Are Compassionate Allowances?
Compassionate Allowances (CAL) is a program by the Social Security Administration that expedites disability benefit approvals for individuals with severe medical conditions. These conditions are typically life-threatening or highly disabling. The program identifies specific impairments—such as certain cancers, rare diseases, or advanced-stage illnesses—that meet the criteria for immediate consideration, bypassing the lengthy application process. CAL aims to quickly provide financial assistance to those in urgent need due to the severity of their condition. This initiative expedites the review of applications, ensuring faster approval and access to vital benefits for individuals facing dire medical circumstances, helping them receive support swiftly and efficiently.
How to Appeal an Adverse Decision
You have 60 days to appeal any decision made by the SSA. You must request the appeal in writing at the reconsideration level, through an administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing, through review by the Appeals Council, and through a Federal Court Review. Your disability lawyer will guide you through the steps to appeal an SSA decision.
Individuals who have never worked or have minimal work history might still qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through the Social Security Administration. SSI is a needs-based program that provides financial assistance to disabled adults and children with limited income and resources. Eligibility depends on meeting the SSA’s definition of disability and having limited income and assets within specific thresholds. Even without a substantial work history, individuals facing severe disabilities, meeting the SSA’s definition of disability, and meeting the income and resource requirements may qualify for SSI, offering financial support and access to necessary medical care.
How Long Does It Take to Get Disability in Illinois?
The timeline for obtaining disability benefits in Illinois varies significantly due to multiple factors. Typically, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application process can take three to five months or longer to reach a decision. Factors impacting the duration include the initial application review, any reconsideration or appeal stages, and the backlog of cases at the Social Security Administration (SSA). Reconsiderations and appeals can prolong the process. Some people wait a year or more. Hiring an attorney who is familiar with the SSDI system may expedite the process. Your lawyer will ensure accurate paperwork and provide legal representation in case reviews or hearings, which could shorten the wait for a decision on disability benefits.
Should You Hire a Lawyer or a Disability Advocate?
Although both types of professionals can help guide you through the claims process, and you’ll probably pay about the same amount whether you hire an attorney or a non-lawyer advocate, there are numerous benefits to hiring a disability lawyer instead.
- Non-lawyer disability advocates are not required to have a law degree. Attorneys must pass the state bar exam and remain in good standing with the state bar association.
- You’ll have attorney-client privilege with your disability lawyer. Your attorney is required to keep your information (and your conversations) between the two of you. Non-lawyer advocates don’t have that obligation to you.
- Non-lawyer disability advocates are not bound by the same ethical guidelines as attorneys.
- Your disability lawyer can file an appeal in Federal Court on your behalf, if necessary. Non-lawyer advocates are not permitted to represent people in hearings.
The elimination period for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) refers to the waiting period before an individual can start receiving benefits after becoming disabled. It’s essentially a waiting period after the onset of the disability. For SSDI, this waiting period is typically five months. During this time, individuals are considered disabled but are not yet eligible for benefits. The five-month period begins from the established onset date of the disability, and benefits start after this waiting period ends. It’s important to note that the elimination period doesn’t apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which does not have a waiting period.
Applying for disability benefits for a child involves navigating the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) process, focusing on the child’s medical condition and its impact on the child’s daily life.
- Medical Eligibility: The child must have a severe physical or mental impairment expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
- Limited Income/Assets: The child’s family income and resources should fall within the eligibility limits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- Prepare Necessary Documents: Gather medical records, school information, and any documentation related to the child’s condition.
- Complete the Application: Apply online, over the phone, or at a local Social Security office. Provide details about the child’s medical condition, treatments, and the impact on daily activities.
- Medical Evaluation: The SSA may request a consultative examination or use existing medical records to assess the severity of the child’s condition.
- Follow-Up and Decision: The SSA reviews the application and makes a decision. If denied, there’s an appeals process available.
- Medical Records: Include doctor evaluations, test results, treatment plans, and the child’s response to treatments.
- School Records: Information about the child’s academic performance, special education programs, and the impact of the disability on their education.
- Functional Reports: Describe how the child’s condition affects their daily activities, interactions, and abilities.
- Financial Information: Provide details about the child’s household income and resources if applying for SSI.
- Legal Representation: Consider consulting a disability attorney or advocate specializing in child disability claims.
- SSA Resources: Utilize the SSA’s resources, such as their website, helpline, or local offices, for guidance and assistance throughout the application process.
The completeness and accuracy of the application, along with the severity and documentation of the child’s condition, greatly influence the chances of approval.
A Consultative Examination (CE) for Social Security Disability is a medical evaluation conducted by a healthcare professional hired by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It occurs when the information provided by the applicant’s existing medical records is insufficient or unclear regarding the disability.
- Purpose: To gather additional information about the applicant’s medical condition, functional limitations, and the impact on their ability to work.
- Examination Type: Usually, a one-time visit with a medical professional chosen by the SSA. It can involve various specialists based on the nature of the disability.
- Evaluation Process: The CE doctor conducts a physical or mental examination, reviews medical records, and may perform tests to assess the applicant’s condition.
- Report Submission: The doctor provides a detailed report to the SSA outlining their findings, diagnosis, limitations, and opinions on the applicant’s ability to work.
- Role in the Disability Determination: The CE report aids the SSA in making decisions regarding the applicant’s eligibility for disability benefits. It is considered along with other medical evidence and information provided by the applicant.
- Examination Content: The CE covers the specific aspects of the applicant’s disability relevant to their claim for Social Security Disability benefits.
- SSA’s Selection: The SSA selects and pays for the doctor performing the CE.
- Applicant’s Role: The applicant must attend the CE as scheduled to avoid delays or denials in the disability determination process.
- Appeals: If an applicant disagrees with the CE findings, they can present additional medical evidence or request an appeal to challenge the decision based on the CE report.
A Consultative Examination serves to complement existing medical records and provide further insights into the applicant’s disability for the SSA’s consideration in determining eligibility for disability benefits.
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