March 2015

If I am incarcerated, do I lose my SSD eligibility?

Valla Con Alambre De EspinoConviction and incarceration can affect benefits

Eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits can depend on various factors, including employment status, medical condition and monthly wages. Many people may not realize incarceration is another variable that may affect a person’s ability to collect benefits. As any disability attorney in Illinois knows, incarceration can result in the suspension of benefits. In some cases, incarceration may also affect a person’s permanent eligibility for benefits.

Current beneficiaries

SSD benefits are generally suspended if a beneficiary spends over 30 days incarcerated in jail, prison or a halfway house. However, in all of these cases, the incarceration must be due to a conviction. If a person is arrested and held for over 30 days without any conviction, the person may continue receiving benefits.

Certain Social Security benefits continue even if a beneficiary is convicted and incarcerated for over 30 days. Beneficiaries who qualify for Medicare Part A coverage continue receiving this coverage. Additionally, any benefits available to a beneficiary’s spouse, children or other dependents will continue throughout the incarceration.

When a beneficiary is incarcerated, SSD benefits are suspended, rather than terminated. However, as any disability attorney in Illinois can confirm, benefit payments don’t automatically resume when a beneficiary is released from prison. Beneficiaries must request reinstatement and furnish official release documents to the SSA.

SSD applicants

Criminal activity can affect a person’s eligibility for SSD benefits if the person did not receive benefits prior to incarceration. A person may lose the ability to collect SSD benefits under the following circumstances:

  • The person’s disabling condition developed during the commission of a felony.
  • The disabling condition originated while the person was serving time for a felony conviction.
  • The disabling condition became significantly worse during the commission of a felony or during incarceration for a felony conviction.

In all other cases, people who have been incarcerated can receive SSD benefits, provided they meet the necessary criteria. To qualify for benefits, an individual must suffer from a disabling condition that is terminal or expected to last over one year. The individual also must not be able to perform any kind of gainful work. The SSA considers a person’s ability to perform recently held jobs as well as new occupations.

Incarcerated individuals may begin the SSD benefit application process once they know their official date of release. Ideally, applicants should begin the process long before this date arrives. As any disability attorney in Illinois knows, the SSD claim review and decision process may take several months. Starting the application early can help minimize the gap between a person’s release from prison and the disbursal of benefits.

Do I have to pay taxes on my SSD benefits in Illinois?

pStackOfBills_16572959_sReviewing tax liability with a Chicago disability lawyer

With the arrival of tax season, many Social Security Disability beneficiaries may wonder whether they owe taxes on their benefits. As a Chicago disability lawyer can confirm, in Illinois, SSD benefits are exempt from state taxes. However, SSD benefits may be taxed at the federal level. Since the Social Security Administration doesn’t automatically withhold taxes, some Illinois beneficiaries may owe federal taxes on their benefits.

SSD tax guidelines

Many beneficiaries are not subject to paying taxes on their benefits because of their low incomes. However, beneficiaries with other sources of income may owe taxes on their benefits. The Internal Revenue Service determines tax liability by adding half of a person’s SSD benefit amount to other personal income. This income could include dividends, pensions and passive earnings.

If this income figure exceeds certain thresholds, a beneficiary may have to pay taxes on SSD benefits. However, the IRS never taxes full benefit amounts. Instead, the IRS taxes proportions of benefits based on the beneficiary’s income, with brackets divided as follows:

  • People who are single, widowed or heads or household don’t pay any SSD taxes if their monthly income falls below $2,083. People who are married and filing jointly don’t pay taxes on SSD benefits if their income is less than $2,666.
  • Individuals with income between $2,084 and $2,833 pay taxes on 50 percent of their SSD benefits. Married couples with income between $2,667 and $3,666 pay taxes on 50 percent of their benefits.
  • Individuals and married couples with income exceeding these thresholds pay taxes on 85 percent of their benefits.

In each case, Social Security Disability benefits are taxed at the same marginal rate that other income is taxed at.

Back payment taxation

SSD back payments, which cover months when a person was disabled but not approved for benefits, are also taxable. As any Chicago disability lawyer knows, many beneficiaries initially receive back payments due to claim processing delays. These individuals might worry that a lump sum back payment will bump them into a higher tax bracket. Fortunately, beneficiaries can assign overdue benefits to prior years.

This reassignment lets beneficiaries avoid penalties for receiving their benefits during one year. The IRS provides a special form that allows beneficiaries to reapportion back payments to the correct years. Beneficiaries who use this form do not have to file amended returns.

People who sought benefits with a Chicago disability lawyer may also deduct attorneys’ fees from their back payments. This is because attorneys’ fees are taken directly from back payments before the payments are disbursed to beneficiaries. Beneficiaries cannot deduct the total fee, but they may deduct a set fraction of it by filing itemized deductions.

Can I still qualify for SSD benefits if I have never held a job?

A beautiful broken hearted multiracial girlSocial Security Disability provides financial assistance to people who cannot work due to disabling medical conditions. As any Illinois Social Security lawyer knows, SSD benefits are not awarded based on financial need. Besides meeting medical criteria, beneficiaries must have adequate earnings to qualify as “insured.” Given this requirement, SSD benefits are not directly available to people who have never worked. However, these individuals may be eligible for other disability benefits.

Benefits for dependents

The dependents of SSD beneficiaries may qualify to receive their own benefits. A dependent’s health and financial need do not affect the person’s eligibility for benefits. Dependent benefits may be available to spouses, ex-spouses, widows and widowers of beneficiaries, depending on each dependent’s age. Someone who cares for the minor or disabled child of an SSD beneficiary may also collect benefits, regardless of age.

Spouses and ex-spouses of beneficiaries can collect dependent benefits after the age of 62. However, ex-spouses may only receive benefits if the marriage lasted more than 10 years. Furthermore, ex-spouses must not remarry or qualify to collect a higher benefit based on another person’s work history.

Surviving spouses and ex-spouses of deceased beneficiaries may collect survivors benefits starting at age 60. Survivors benefits are only available to ex-spouses if the marriage to the beneficiary lasted over 10 years. Surviving spouses and ex-spouses who qualify as disabled may begin collecting benefits at age 50. The Social Security Administration considers a person disabled if the following criteria are met:

  • The disabling medical condition is expected to last over a year or prove fatal.
  • The person can no longer perform any work that he or she performed in the recent past.
  • The person is unable to pursue new work due to the disabling condition.

As any Illinois Social Security lawyer understands, people who meet these criteria may also qualify for other Social Security benefits.

SSI disability benefits

The SSA awards Supplemental Security Income disability benefits based on financial need. The SSA uses the same medical criteria to determine whether individuals are eligible for SSD and SSI benefits. However, SSI beneficiaries do not have to meet earnings requirements to qualify for benefits.

SSI disability benefits are only available to people with low income and assets. In 2015, an SSI beneficiary’s countable monthly income cannot exceed $733, and a beneficiary’s assets cannot exceed $2,000. However, the SSA does not count every asset or all income toward these limits. This can make determining benefit eligibility challenging.

Disabled individuals may benefit from discussing the availability of these forms of assistance with an Illinois Social Security lawyer. An attorney may be able to offer advice on an individual’s eligibility for both categories of benefits.

Will my SSD benefits include medical care?

pDocChestandStethascope_4263660_sBeneficiaries may qualify for Medicare coverage

To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, an individual must suffer from a debilitating condition that precludes gainful employment. Given this requirement, the availability of medical care is a concern for many beneficiaries, as most Illinois disability lawyers know.

SSD benefits are not awarded based on a person’s medical expenses or healthcare needs. Instead, SSD benefits are fixed payments that beneficiaries can use to address medical costs or other expenses. Fortunately for beneficiaries, other forms of financial assistance may also be available to address the cost of medical care.

Healthcare coverage offered

Some SSD beneficiaries are eligible to receive Medicare coverage. The Social Security Administration makes the following forms of coverage available:

  • Part A coverage, which may address inpatient procedures, hospitalizations, follow-up care and some in-home care. Beneficiaries who are eligible for this coverage receive it for free.
  • Part B coverage, which can pay for outpatient care, medical tests, doctor visits, rehabilitation and mental health services. Beneficiaries who qualify for this coverage must pay a monthly premium.
  • Part D coverage, which can help cover prescription costs. This coverage is available for a premium to anyone who qualifies for Medicare coverage.

Unfortunately, in most cases, Medicare coverage for SSD beneficiaries is not immediately available. The SSA doesn’t provide this coverage until two years after the date that a beneficiary becomes eligible for benefits.

Determining waiting periods

Disabled individuals gain eligibility for SSD benefits five months after the date of disability onset. However, as Illinois disability lawyers know, many SSD applicants do not immediately start receiving benefits on this eligibility date. Therefore, the Medicare waiting period doesn’t always prevent beneficiaries from receiving coverage during the two years after benefits begin.

Due to claim processing delays, some beneficiaries receive their benefits months after their eligibility dates. This may occur frequently among people who applied for benefits months or years after their disabilities began. By the time these applicants receive benefits, they may have already completed a significant portion of the waiting period.

Early Medicare coverage may also be available to people afflicted with certain severely disabling medical conditions. People suffering from end-stage renal disease with kidney failure may receive Medicare coverage within three months of starting dialysis. People diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis qualify for Medicare coverage as soon as their SSD claims are approved.

Evaluating eligibility

Beneficiaries who have concerns about their eligibility for Medicare or other assistance may benefit from seeking legal advice. Illinois disability lawyers may be able to help beneficiaries identify their true eligibility dates and anticipate when Medicare coverage may begin.

What qualifies as a musculoskeletal system disorder?

pDistraughtManOnSteps_9366984_mClaiming SSD for joint, bone and muscle conditions

Musculoskeletal system disorders are conditions that affect the bones, joints and muscles. People who suffer from these disorders in Illinois may experience anything from mild pain and stiffness to significant physical limitations. These disorders can be highly debilitating, as any Chicago Social Security attorney understands. Fortunately, victims may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration recognizes the disabling nature of many musculoskeletal system disorders. The first chapter in the SSA’s “Blue Book” of disabling impairments is devoted entirely to these disorders. Additionally, many musculoskeletal disorders that are not explicitly included in the Blue Book may still qualify as disabling.

Recognized disorders

Numerous categories of musculoskeletal system disorders are listed in the Blue Book. These include the following injuries, diseases and disorders:

  • Amputations
  • Spinal disorders
  • Joint dysfunction
  • Soft tissue injury due to burns
  • Fractures of the legs, feet or upper extremities

Additionally, the Blue Book recognizes the possibility of disablement resulting indirectly from musculoskeletal system disorders. For instance, reconstructive surgery of a weight-bearing joint that causes a limited ability to walk is listed in the book.

People who suffer from listed musculoskeletal disorders may qualify for SSD benefits by meeting requirements described in the appropriate listing. For example, a joint disorder must limit a person’s ability to walk or perform fine motor tasks. Additionally, the disorder must be medically documented, and it must cause pain, stiffness and limited motion. If these criteria are met, a joint disorder is automatically considered disabling.

Other musculoskeletal system disorders that don’t appear in the Blue Book may also qualify as disabling. The victims of these disorders may receive medical-vocational allowances if they cannot perform gainful work. As any Chicago Social Security attorney knows, the SSA may use various factors to determine whether a person can work gainfully. These include the person’s physical limitations, age, job skills and relevant knowledge.

Documenting musculoskeletal disorders

People claiming SSD benefits for musculoskeletal system disorders must provide a diagnosis from an acceptable medical source. Licensed physicians and podiatrists both qualify as acceptable sources. SSD applicants also should furnish objective evidence of the disorder, such as medical imaging or tests. Applicants may supplement this evidence with descriptions of the physical limitations the disorder causes.

For people seeking SSD benefits, establishing the expected duration of musculoskeletal system disorders is critical. As any Chicago Social Security attorney knows, a condition must be terminal or expected to last over 12 months to qualify for benefits. Some musculoskeletal disorders, such as fractures and spine injuries, may heal or improve within this time period. However, medical treatment records and statements from doctors can help applicants prove a disorder is anticipated to last longer.


How can my children receive benefits from my disability?

pChildOnDadShoulders_7179948_sSecuring additional benefits for dependents

People who live with disabling conditions often face significant financial hardship, due to wage loss and unavoidable medical expenses. When these individuals also support children, they may struggle to make ends meet. Fortunately, as any attorney Social Security can explain, assistance may be available to people who qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration makes special benefits available to children and other dependents of SSD beneficiaries.

Eligible children

The biological children, stepchildren and adopted children of beneficiaries may all qualify to receive dependent benefits. The SSA can award benefits if a child is unmarried and meets one of the following criteria:

  • The child is less than 18 years old.
  • The child is less than 19 years old and attends secondary school as a full-time student.
  • The child suffers from a disability that began before the age of 22.

Dependent benefits may even be available to the grandchildren of beneficiaries. However, the grandparents usually must provide a home and substantial financial support to the grandchildren. Additionally, the grandchildren’s biological parents must be disabled or deceased, or the grandparents must have legally adopted the grandchildren.

Benefit amounts and duration

A beneficiary’s child may receive up to half of the benefit amount that the beneficiary collects. However, as any attorney Social Security knows, the benefit a child receives may be limited because of the family benefit cap. The SSA generally does not allow families to receive more than 150 to 180 percent of the original benefit amount. If a beneficiary has multiple children, the benefit each child receives is adjusted downward to accommodate this limit.

Children may receive dependent benefits as long as they meet eligibility criteria and their parents qualify for SSD benefits. Dependent benefits continue even if a parent’s benefits are suspended due to the parent’s incarceration. If a parent passes away, dependent children may collect survivors benefits until they no longer meet age-related criteria.

Seeking benefits

SSD beneficiaries must request dependent benefits for their children from the SSA. When pursuing these benefits, parents may need to supply documentation to prove their children are eligible for benefits. For instance, parents might have to show enrollment records to prove an 18-year old child is in secondary school.

Parents requesting benefits for disabled children over age 18 must provide evidence of the disabling condition. A disabled adult child must meet the same medical criteria that other adults must meet to receive direct SSD benefits. Therefore, as an attorney Social Security understands, parents must provide extensive documentation to support the child’s claim for benefits.

Can I still claim SSD benefits if I qualify for the Illinois Public Employees Disability Act?

pHandPenAndWorkInjuryForm_7723676_sRules regarding public disability benefits and SSD

The Illinois Public Employees Disability Act provides benefits to qualifying public workers who have suffered disabling work-related injuries. These workers may receive benefits equal to their full salaries for up to one year. Still, some workers may wonder about the availability of other benefits. As a Chicago disability attorney can attest, these workers may also be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

Qualifying for benefits under the Illinois Public Employees Disability Act does not preclude an individual from seeking SSD benefits. However, disabled individuals must meet distinct criteria to qualify for SSD benefits. Additionally, for some employees who receive benefits under the Act, collecting concurrent SSD benefits may not be an option.

SSD qualification criteria

Disabled individuals must have adequate work and earnings records to qualify for SSD benefits. If a person lacks sufficient earnings, the person cannot collect benefits. This holds true regardless of the severity of the person’s impairment or the person’s eligibility for other disability benefits.

Besides satisfying earnings criteria, people claiming SSD benefits must fulfill a specific definition of disabled. The Social Security Administration considers a person disabled if the following criteria are met:

  • The person suffers from a medical condition that is terminal or anticipated to last at least 12 months.
  • This condition prevents the person from engaging in work he or she previously performed.
  • The person cannot reasonably pursue other forms of work, given the disability and other factors.

Some workers who receive benefits under the Act may not meet these criteria. The Act provides benefits without considering the expected duration of a worker’s condition. Additionally, employees who might perform other work can collect benefits under the Act. Therefore, as a Chicago disability attorney could explain, qualifying for benefits under the Act does not guarantee eligibility for SSD benefits.

Complicating factors

In some cases, receiving benefits under the Act may prevent an employee from simultaneously collecting SSD benefits. The SSA adjusts SSD awards to ensure that an individual’s total public disability benefits do not exceed a set threshold. If these benefits surpass 80 percent of the worker’s average current earnings, the worker cannot collect SSD benefits. The full salary benefits awarded under the Act may prevent some workers from receiving SSD benefits.

A worker’s average current earnings and current salary aren’t always equivalent amounts, however. As a Chicago disability attorney understands, the SSA calculates average current earnings using a worker’s highest recent earnings. If a worker’s benefit under the Act falls far enough below the worker’s average current earnings, the worker may collect SSD. Otherwise, workers may pursue SSD benefits after the public disability benefits awarded under the Act terminate.

3 actions that will affect your continued disability eligibility

pFrustratedWorker_21537678_sUnderstand eligibility with disability lawyers in Chicago

To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, disabled individuals must meet strict medical standards. Many SSD beneficiaries understand the difficulty of qualifying for benefits but overlook the potential challenges of maintaining eligibility. As any disability lawyers in Chicago can confirm, SSD benefits are never awarded permanently. The Social Security Administration conducts regular eligibility reviews, and various changes in a beneficiary’s life may provide grounds for benefit loss.

Reporting medical improvements

If a beneficiary or another source reports improvements to a disabling condition, the SSA automatically conducts a Continuing Disability Review. During the review, the SSA considers the nature of the medical improvement and its effect on the beneficiary’s ability to work. If the improvement clearly does not change the beneficiary’s ability to work, the beneficiary remains eligible for benefits.

Otherwise, the SSA compares the beneficiary’s current and previous residual functional capacity. RFC indicates the level of work that a person can perform, given his or her exertional and other limitations. If a person’s RFC has improved enough to permit gainful employment, the person may lose his or her benefits.

Stopping prescribed treatment

As disability lawyers in Chicago know, a beneficiary’s decision to stop following recommended treatment protocols can affect benefit eligibility. The decision to forgo treatment may suggest that a person’s condition has improved significantly and is manageable without medical care. For this reason, a person’s decision to stop treatment may trigger a CDR.

The SSA may weigh whether a beneficiary stopped following treatments protocols for legitimate non-medical reasons. For instance, financial constraints or religious beliefs may prevent a person from pursuing certain treatments. If a treatment proves ineffective or causes severe side effects, halting the treatment may also be reasonable. However, if treatment is no longer necessary due to substantial medical improvements, a person may lose eligibility for benefits.

Returning to work

Resuming work may affect a person’s eligibility for SSD for various reasons. SSD benefits are not available to people who are engaging in substantial gainful activity. In 2015, SGA is work with monthly income exceeding $1,090. Additionally, a person’s ability to work in any capacity may suggest medical improvements that allow the person to resume SGA. Therefore, changes in work activity can lead to a CDR.

As disability lawyers in Chicago can explain, in some situations, beneficiaries may resume working without losing SSD benefits. For example, beneficiaries may enter a nine-month Trial Work Period. Any month in which a beneficiary earns more than $780 qualifies as part of the trial. During these months, beneficiaries may perform SGA without losing their benefits. When the trial ends, however, the SSA may terminate benefits if a beneficiary appears capable of resuming gainful work.

Do you have to submit medical records which downplay your disability?

pHandPenPaper_Depositphotos_9491294_mMedical evidence requirements in SSD claims

Medical records play a decisive role in Illinois Social Security Disability claims. Unfortunately, some medical evidence may not reflect the debilitating nature of a condition. Many SSD applicants may wonder if they can exclude this evidence from their claims. Technically, applicants may choose which records they submit to the SSA. However, as Social Security lawyers in Chicago can explain, the intentional omission of evidence can have negative consequences.

Current and proposed policies

SSD claimants are expected to submit relevant medical evidence with their applications. Currently, the Social Security Administration does not explicitly require applicants to submit every available record. However, the SSA has proposed establishing such a requirement.

This proposal stems from concerns that some claimants withhold unfavorable evidence to reduce the risk of SSD claim denial. According to The Wall Street Journal, the new rule would make every applicant provide all known medical evidence when making claims. This responsibility would rest with claimants, rather than legal representatives, to eliminate issues with attorney-client privilege.

Even under the current rules, SSD applicants usually benefit from submitting all available evidence. This can prevent the claim processing delays that occur when the SSA must secure additional medical evidence to support a claim decision. Providing full medical evidence can also help applicants maintain credibility, which is often crucial in SSD claims.

Benefits of full disclosure

SSD applicants may seem questionable if they give the appearance of withholding evidence or providing misleading information. Claim approval is less likely when applicants don’t appear credible, as most Social Security lawyers in Chicago understand. Additionally, if the SSA approves a claim based on incomplete information, benefit loss may occur in the future.

If claimants don’t submit unfavorable medical records, the SSA may obtain those records, or similar information, through various means. These include:

  • Directly securing the evidence. The SSA may request medical records from treating physicians and facilities.
  • Ordering a consultative medical examination. During this examination, an independent physician performs objective tests and assessments to secure relevant evidence.
  • Reviewing prior decisions and records. After benefits are awarded, the SSA may compare current and past medical records to determine whether the decision was in error.

Instead of risking losing credibility, applicants should consider other means of addressing apparently unfavorable evidence. Applicants can record regular journal entries to show that their conditions are generally debilitating. Applicants can also document their functional limitations through doctors’ statements and descriptions from third parties.

If medical records don’t fully support an applicant’s disability claim, the applicant may benefit from seeking legal assistance. Social Security lawyers in Chicago may be able to assist a person in using other approaches to establish the disabling nature of the condition.

How do you fill out the work history on your SSD application?

Businessman showing a documentA Social Security lawyer can assist applicants

People seeking Social Security Disability benefits must provide both medical and employment information in their applications. Many people in Illinois may view submitting work history and related information as a secondary concern. However, as any Social Security lawyer can confirm, this information may determine the outcome of a person’s claim.

Some individuals qualify for SSD benefits based on their medical conditions. However, many people qualify by receiving medical-vocational allowances. The Social Security Administration awards allowances if a person’s job experience, education, age and condition do not reasonably support gainful employment. Work history can be decisive in determining whether an allowance is awarded. Therefore, providing an accurate work history is essential for SSD applicants.

Work history questions

The work history section of the SSD benefits application asks for basic information about an applicant’s last five jobs. Applicants must describe fundamental aspects of each job, including the business, hours, pay and duration. Applicants do not need to include jobs that they held more than 15 years before the date of application.

If applicants have only held one job in the past 15 years, the application asks for additional details. Applicants must provide information about the following job duties:

  • Lifting requirements, with specific information about the amount of weight lifted and the frequency of lifts
  • Non-exertional requirements, such as standing, sitting, crouching, stooping and performing fine motor tasks
  • Leadership responsibilities, such as supervising, hiring or firing other employees
  • Specialized duties, such as using machinery, completing reports or using technical knowledge

Applicants do not need to complete this section if they have held multiple jobs in the last 15 years. The SSA may obtain additional information later through a second form, which requests the above information for every job reported. As a Social Security lawyer can attest, applicants should offer detailed answers when completing either form. If an applicant’s prior job duties are unclear, the SSA may incorrectly determine that the applicant can still perform the job.

Completing the application

Applicants should always answer every question regarding work history. As a Social Security lawyer can verify, the SSA requires all of this information to reach a decision. Leaving blank answers may only delay the final decision. However, applicants should not provide inaccurate or questionable information. If a question does not apply or the answer is unknown, applicants should state that this is the case.

People claiming SSD benefits should consider compiling a complete work history before completing their applications. This history should include job titles, pay rates, employment dates and specific descriptions of all job-related duties. Applicants can use this form to ensure that they provide consistent information whenever the SSA requests work history information.