March 2015

Seeking SSD benefits for a disabled child who is now 18

Portrait of cute handicapped boy in garden.Special adult child’s benefits may be available

Many disabled children in Illinois may be eligible for Social Security benefits as minors. Once these children turn 18, they may qualify to receive Social Security Disability benefits. However, as any Social Security attorney knows, eligibility isn’t guaranteed, even for children who previously collected other benefits. After age 18, disabled children can only receive benefits if they meet the Social Security Administration’s distinct criteria for adults.

Qualifying financially

SSD benefits are only available to people with adequate work and earnings records. Disabled adult children who worked before or despite their disabilities may have sufficient earnings. Otherwise, disabled adult children may receive benefits based on the earnings of a qualifying parent. These benefits are known as adult child’s benefits.

A qualifying parent must receive Social Security disability or retirement benefits. A disabled adult child may collect up to half of a parent’s benefit amount. Alternately, an adult child may qualify for benefits if a deceased parent had an adequate work history. A child who has a personal work history can still qualify for benefits based on a parent’s earnings. This may yield a larger benefit, since parents typically have greater earnings.

Establishing disablement

Besides qualifying financially for benefits, adult children must meet the SSA’s adult definition of disability. The disabling condition must be expected to last over 12 months or result in death. The condition must prevent the child from performing any work he or she performed previously. Additionally, the condition must preclude the child from pursuing new work.

Disabled adult children may qualify for benefits in various ways, as a Social Security attorney can explain. These include:

  • Qualifying under a “Blue Book” listing. Impairments listed in the book are automatically considered disabling if they cause specified symptoms or limitations.
  • “Equaling” the terms of a listing. The SSA may determine that a child’s limitations are just as severe as those described in the book. Therefore, a child may receive benefits without meeting exact listing terms.
  • Receiving a medical-vocational allowance. The SSA may award an allowance after evaluating a child’s education, impairments and work experience. If these factors limit a child from working gainfully, the child may receive benefits.

Regardless of how disabled adult children may qualify for benefits, they should provide ample documentation. Medical evidence should establish the nature, severity and prognosis of the condition. Statements from non-medical sources can help show the functional limitations the child experiences.

As a Social Security attorney understands, SSD applicants should document every symptom, limitation and minor impairment. Documenting secondary impairments won’t help a child meet Blue Book listing terms. However, this evidence may improve the likelihood of the child “equaling” a listing or receiving a medical-vocational allowance.

Can I apply for Social Security Disability if I have cancer?

pDistraughtManOnSteps_9366984_mClaiming benefits with an Illinois SSD attorney

The American Cancer Society estimates that over 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2015. As any Illinois SSD attorney knows, people diagnosed with the disease may face numerous adverse symptoms and health complications. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits may be available to cancer victims. The Social Security Administration automatically considers some cancers disabling. Other cases may qualify for benefits based on the functional limitations the victim experiences.

Automatic disability determination

A diagnosis of certain cancers is enough to meet the SSA’s medical criteria. For example, inflammatory breast cancer and cancer of the pancreas are automatically considered disabling. However, most cancers must have specific characteristics, such as inoperability or metastasis, to qualify as disabling. For evidence, the SSA typically requires a diagnosis supported with clinical findings, symptoms and statements from medical professionals.

The SSA outlines the medical criteria different types of cancer must meet in the “Blue Book” of impairments. The SSA also identifies cancers that merit expedited claim processing in the list of Compassionate Allowances conditions. Every condition on this list is generally severe enough to warrant benefits. Thus, the SSA requires minimal objective evidence in claims involving these conditions.

In addition to meeting medical criteria, applicants seeking SSD benefits for cancer must meet financial requirements. Applicants cannot perform work with monthly income over $1,090. Applicants also must qualify as insured based on past earnings. People who fail to meet these criteria cannot receive benefits, regardless of how disabling their conditions are.

Medical-vocational allowances

If cancer is not considered disabling under the Blue Book, a victim may still qualify for benefits. As any Illinois SSD attorney understands, the SSA may award medical-vocational allowances if cancer prevents victims from working gainfully. To determine whether cancer precludes gainful employment, the SSA considers the following factors:

  • Age — the SSA recognizes that older claimants may have trouble learning new skills or changing work.
  • Education — the SSA acknowledges that claimants with lower educational levels may have fewer job opportunities.
  • Work-related skills — the SSA uses work experience and skills to evaluate the work a claimant can perform.
  • Residual functional capacity — the SSA also considers the functional limitations the cancer causes.

The effects of chemotherapy or other treatments are additionally factored into RFC. The SSA may consider immediate symptoms and potential long-term effects, such as cognitive impairment.

For people seeking medical-vocational allowances, proper documentation of functional limitations is essential, as any Illinois SSD attorney can attest. Applicants can ask a physician to complete an RFC assessment form. Applicants can also request statements from non-medical sources, such as co-workers or friends. These sources can complement objective evidence by providing insights into the symptoms and limitations the applicant experiences.


Visual disorders, children and Social Security Disability

baby and glassesBenefits available for various vision problems

Vision problems affect many children in Illinois. The American Optometric Association estimates one-quarter of children in America have vision problems. The American Foundation for the Blind reports over 50,000 children are legally blind. As any SSD lawyer in Illinois understands, these children and their families may face significant challenges. Fortunately, they may be eligible to receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits.

Evaluating visual disorders

The Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” outlines criteria that childhood vision problems must meet to be considered disabling. A child who is legally blind automatically qualifies as disabled. Legal blindness is defined as central visual acuity less than 20/200 in the stronger eye after best correction. The SSA considers visual field diameter of less than 20 degrees equivalent to visual acuity of 20/200 or worse.

Children who do not suffer from legal or statutory blindness may still qualify for benefits. These children’s vision problems may be evaluated under the following Blue Book listings:

  • Loss of visual efficiency or visual impairment in the better eye. After best correction, visual efficiency must be less than 20 percent, or visual impairment value must be greater than 1.00.
  • Contraction of the visual field in the better eye. Kinetic perimetry must show a visual field efficiency of less than 20 percent. Alternately, static threshold perimetry must show a mean deviation of 22 decibels.
  • Central visual acuity without visual acuity testing available. Neuroimaging, electroretinography or examination must indicate low vision, eye injury or lack of nerve response.

As an SSD lawyer in Illinois knows, severe vision problems may also qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program. This program provides fast claim decisions and reduced evidence standards for conditions that usually are found disabling. Infantile bilateral optic atrophy, which affects the optic nerve, qualifies for the program. Bilateral retinoblastoma, or the formation of malignant tumors in retinal tissue, also qualifies.

Benefit options

Children with severe vision problems may qualify for SSI disability benefits if they meet income requirements. Children under age 18 cannot directly qualify for SSD benefits. However, if a parent collects SSD or retirement benefits, a child may collect dependent benefits. As any SSD lawyer in Illinois can explain, dependent benefits are available regardless of the child’s health. These benefits continue until the child turns 18 or the parent stops qualifying for benefits.

After age 18, children who collected dependent benefits may be entitled to an adult child’s benefit. This benefit is based off the earnings record of the qualifying parent. Alternately, children may qualify for SSD benefits based on their own earnings. In either case, children must meet adult financial and medical criteria, which are distinct from the SSA’s criteria for children.


Create a record of how your disability affects your life through a journal

Notebook and pen Black and whiteDocumentation of symptoms, treatments and daily effects

Many Social Security Disability claims are not approved solely on the strength of medical records. Instead, claim decisions often depend on the unique symptoms and limitations a condition causes. As any Illinois Social Security Disability attorney can attest, applicants usually must personally document and describe these effects. A journal can be invaluable in helping applicants accurately remember and explain the effects of their disabling conditions.

Preserving key information

Applicants can use journaling to record various daily impacts of their medical conditions. Through a journal, applicants can track symptoms and functional limitations they face at work or elsewhere. To create a thorough record, applicants can also record their medical treatments and any associated gains or side effects.

Applicants should be careful to record their symptoms and limitations in specific, descriptive language. Applicants should note the location, frequency and severity of symptoms, along with any precipitating factors. Similarly, applicants should describe exactly how or why the disabling medical condition affects their ability to perform daily activities.

Applicants can also use journaling to track the course and effectiveness of the treatments they receive. Social Security may deny a claim if the disabling condition could be managed through treatment without adverse side effects. Thus, applicants should focus on documenting the limitations of the available treatments.

Benefits during claims

As any Illinois Social Security Disability attorney knows, the nature and severity of some conditions are not externally apparent. Journaling can strengthen claims involving conditions that are complex or difficult to establish with objective evidence alone. Such conditions include emotional illnesses or pain disorders, such as depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia and chronic pain.

Keeping a journal can also offer benefits for people with more readily apparent conditions. The following factors make journaling advisable for most applicants:

  • The SSD claim process is rarely quick. Applicants who must appeal denials often do so months after filing their claims. After this delay, remembering symptoms and functional limitations can be challenging.
  • Vagueness or inconsistency can make a claim appear less credible. Unfortunately, describing symptoms such as pain in a precise manner can be difficult. Journaling helps applicants practice articulating their symptoms and daily struggles.
  • SSD applicants must support their claims with documentation from medical sources and even personal sources. A journal can help these people understand an applicant’s condition and its impacts.

Additionally, a journal may help illustrate the progression of the disabling condition. Small changes that occur gradually may be easier to detect through journal entries.

As any Illinois Social Security Disability attorney can confirm, journaling does not have to be a difficult or time-consuming task. Short but detailed daily notes can strengthen an applicant’s claim and even significantly affect the final outcome.

Can I lose my SSD benefits once I’ve been approved?

Social Security Claim Denied Stamp Shows Social Unemployment Benefit RefusedPreserving benefits with an Illinois disability lawyer

Most Social Security Disability beneficiaries know firsthand that qualifying for SSD benefits can be challenging. However, many beneficiaries may think benefit loss is unlikely once benefits have been awarded. Unfortunately, as any Illinois disability lawyer can explain, SSD benefits are never awarded on a permanent basis. The Social Security Administration may terminate a person’s benefits on various grounds.

Ongoing eligibility criteria

SSD beneficiaries must meet various requirements to remain eligible for benefits. A person may lose benefits for the following reasons:

  • Performing substantial gainful activity — in 2015, this is work with monthly income of at least $1,090. The SSA makes exceptions for beneficiaries who have resumed working as part of a Trial Work Period.
  • Showing medical improvement — the SSA uses a medical improvement review standard to evaluate whether medical changes affect a beneficiary’s eligibility. If medical improvement makes a person reasonably capable of gainful employment, the SSA halts benefits.
  • Engaging in criminal activity — a beneficiary cannot collect SSD benefits while he or she is incarcerated. People convicted of certain felonies may permanently lose eligibility for SSD benefits.
  • Reaching retirement age — Social Security Disability and retirement benefits are never awarded concurrently. The SSA converts SSD benefits to retirement benefits when the beneficiary reaches the appropriate age.

The SSA conducts regular Continuing Disability Reviews to determine whether beneficiaries still qualify for SSD benefits. As any Illinois disability lawyer understands, these reviews may occur on schedule or based on changes in the beneficiary’s life.

Review process

The SSA typically conducts CDRs every three years. Reviews may be scheduled more frequently if a condition is anticipated to improve. If a condition is permanent or unlikely to improve, reviews may take place less often. Unscheduled reviews may occur if a person resumes SGA, shows medical improvement or stops following treatment protocols. The development of new methods of treatment for the disabling medical condition may also result in an unscheduled review.

If medical improvement is unlikely, the SSA sends the beneficiary a short form. This form contains questions on recent work, training, education and medical changes. If a beneficiary’s answers suggest the beneficiary no longer qualifies for benefits, the SSA sends a more detailed 10-page form. The SSA initially sends this form to people with conditions that could improve and people receiving triggered reviews. This longer form asks specific questions about the disabling condition, functional limitations, medical tests and treatments.

If the SSA determines a person no longer qualifies for benefits, the person can challenge the decision. This process is distinct from the process for appealing a denied claim. Thus, former beneficiaries may benefit from working with an Illinois disability lawyer who understands this unique type of appeal.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s can leave middle-aged people incapacitated

Adult Male Ponders Future Looking Out Rain Covered WindowA Chicago Social Security attorney can help victims claim disability

Alzheimer’s disease is classified as early-onset when it develops before age 65. About 200,000 Americans suffer from this form of Alzheimer’s. As any Chicago Social Security attorney knows, this disease can cause various disruptive or incapacitating cognitive and behavioral changes. In severe cases, victims may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

Disabling changes

During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, victims may experience mild issues concentrating, planning, remembering things and performing mentally challenging tasks. Since early-onset Alzheimer’s is progressive, these symptoms become worse in time. Unfortunately, no treatments can reverse or stop Alzheimer’s.

As early-onset Alzheimer’s advances, victims may lose awareness of their surroundings and forget facts or memories. Some victims experience changes in personality or sleep patterns. Victims might require assistance with activities such as dressing, eating or toileting. Ultimately, victims may lose the ability to control their movements and respond to their environments.

These changes can be burdensome at any age. However, working middle-aged adults facing early-onset Alzheimer’s may especially struggle to handle necessary daily activities. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits may be available to adults who cannot work due to this disease.

Establishing disablement

Early-onset Alzheimer’s may be considered disabling if it meets the terms outlined in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book.” As any Chicago Social Security attorney is aware, the book includes a listing for organic mental disorders. A person who meets the listing terms and non-medical criteria can qualify for SSD benefits without additional evaluation.

The listing requires victims to document one of seven specific symptoms. These symptoms are memory issues, disorientation, delusions, IQ loss, personality changes, mood disturbances and poor impulse control. If Alzheimer’s has lasted at least two years, victims must also document significant restrictions to functional abilities. Otherwise, in addition to one symptom, victims must document two of the following limitations:

  • Challenges behaving appropriately in social settings
  • Problems completing tasks that require focus, pacing or prolonged effort
  • Difficulty performing regular daily activities
  • Repeated episodes in which symptoms worsen

If early-onset Alzheimer’s does not meet the above criteria, a victim may still seek a medical-vocational allowance. Rather than evaluating set symptoms, the SSA considers the applicant’s unique symptoms and limitations. If the effects of the disease do not reasonably allow for gainful employment, the applicant may receive benefits.

Expedited decisions

Claims involving early-onset Alzheimer’s qualify for expedited processing under the Compassionate Allowances program. As any Chicago Social Security attorney can explain, Compassionate Allowances conditions are generally severe enough to qualify for SSD benefits. A diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s does not guarantee claim approval. However, it does provide grounds for an expedited claim review and decision process.


Around 25 million Americans are fighting rare diseases

I'm just so sadAn attorney for Social Security may be able to assist victims

In the U.S., diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people are considered rare diseases. According to the National Institutes of Health, thousands of these diseases exist, and they take a significant cumulative toll. An estimated 25 million Americans suffer from rare diseases. As any attorney for Social Security knows, these diseases can be highly complex and debilitating. Fortunately, some victims may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

Victims face unique challenges

According to the NIH, victims of rare diseases may face challenges in receiving appropriate diagnoses or medical attention. Rare disease patients and specialists are usually dispersed across the country. Additionally, large-scale or long-term studies of most rare diseases are often lacking. This can make it difficult for victims to receive effective treatment.

The NIH recently announced an expansion of the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network. The RCDN facilitates collaboration and data sharing between researchers and advocacy groups across the country. Currently, the network includes about 2,600 researchers and 29,000 patients engaged in 91 studies. New awards of about $29 million will support two additional studies.

Despite these ongoing efforts, many victims of rare diseases may struggle to secure treatment and handle daily tasks. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits may be available to individuals with qualifying diseases or severe functional limitations.

SSD for rare diseases

The Social Security Administration recognizes numerous rare diseases as disabling. In some cases, a diagnosis alone can medically qualify a victim for benefits. In other cases, the SSA establishes criteria a disease must meet to be considered disabling.

As any attorney for Social Security can confirm, some rare diseases are eligible for expedited claim processing. The following SSA programs allow faster decisions for claims involving serious conditions:

  • Compassionate Allowances — the CAL program identifies conditions that almost always qualify for SSD benefits. Victims only need to provide basic objective evidence to support their claims.
  • Terminal illness — the TERI program expedites processing of terminal illness claims. Some illnesses automatically qualify for the program. A claim may also qualify if a doctor states the disease is terminal or if the applicant receives hospice care.
  • Quick Disability Determination — with predictive computer programs, the SSA identifies claims that are likely to be approved. Claims examiners can approve QDD cases without second opinions from medical professionals.

Diseases that don’t qualify for these programs may still merit benefits. The SSA can award medical-vocational allowances to people who cannot reasonably perform gainful work. The SSA considers each applicant’s health, age, job skills and education to determine whether this is the case. As any attorney for Social Security can explain, extensive documentation is crucial for these claims, given the SSA’s rigorous standards.

Negative tweeting can be hard on your heart

aClinicTools2_vectorstock_2333273Study links negative emotions, heart disease

Sharing emotions, whether during regular days or special occasions like Valentine’s Day, is often viewed as necessary and healthy. As any Chicago disability attorney knows, emotions can impact physical health, and internalizing emotions is often considered harmful. However, new research suggests expressing negative emotions and thoughts through social media may have adverse health effects.

Negativity and heart health

The study, which was published in Psychological Science, analyzed Tweets from over 1,300 American counties. Researchers analyzed the language in the Tweets to determine the type of emotion the Tweets expressed. Tweets indicating enthusiasm and optimism were considered positive. Tweets with expletives and words such as “hate” were labeled negative.

Researchers then compared the emotions expressed in local Tweets to each county’s risk of heart disease. The researchers found that the risk of death from heart disease was lower in communities with more Tweets expressing positive emotions. The same risk was higher in counties with more negative Tweets.

The finding is not so surprising, since research shows depression, stress and anxiety are risk factors for serious heart health problems. Negative feelings can also produce behaviors that raise the risk of heart disease, such as drinking or eating unhealthily. Research even suggests community psychology predicts the health of members better than individual behaviors. Thus, people in communities that express negativity regularly may face a greater risk of heart disease.

Living with heart disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is prevalent in the U.S. The disease contributes to one-quarter of all fatalities, and 735,000 Americans suffer heart attacks annually. Even when heart disease isn’t deadly, it can be disabling. People who suffer significant impairments due to heart disease may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration recognizes various heart conditions as disabling, as a Chicago disability attorney can confirm. In the “Blue Book” of impairments, the SSA outlines criteria each condition must meet to qualify for benefits. The following conditions are included in the book:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congestive heart disease
  • Chronic heart failure
  • Recurrent arrhythmia
  • Aneurysm
  • Heart transplant

People who cannot meet listing criteria may still receive SSD benefits, as any Chicago disability attorney knows. The SSA may determine that a person’s condition is equal in severity to one listed. The SSA may also award medical-vocational allowances to people who are no longer reasonably capable of gainful employment.

The SSA evaluates ability to work based on a person’s functional abilities, age, work experience and education. Thus, for people seeking allowances for heart disease, full documentation is crucial. Applicants should support their claims with extensive information about their educations and work history, in addition to medical evidence.

Can I receive SSD benefits if I receive public assistance?

ClaimsUnderstanding when assistance affects SSD eligibility

People who cannot work due to disabling medical conditions often face significant financial hardship. These individuals may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, but the wait for approval can be lengthy. Many people may wonder if collecting other assistance affects their eligibility for SSD benefits. As most disability lawyers in Chicago know, most public assistance does not affect SSD eligibility. However, seeking certain benefits may complicate the SSD claim process.

Potential complications

Requesting or collecting public assistance does not preclude a person from receiving SSD benefits. However, pursuing certain forms of assistance may reduce the likelihood of claim approval. The nature of some claims may undermine the apparent credibility of an SSD claim.

Collecting unemployment benefits can adversely affect an SSD claim. Official Social Security Administration policy holds that people who collect unemployment can also collect SSD. However, claims examiners or administrative law judges may consider the unemployment filing when evaluating whether a person can work. People requesting unemployment benefits allege that they could work if appropriate work were available. A claims examiner or judge may use this as grounds to deny an SSD claim.

Similarly, people who have filed Americans with Disability Act claims may technically receive SSD benefits. ADA claims and SSD claims use different criteria. ADA claims hold that a person could work with reasonable accommodations, while SSD claims do not factor in accommodations. Still, people seeking both benefits must reconcile any apparent contradictions between their claims. People who cannot do so may be denied SSD benefits.

Acceptable assistance

Fortunately, as any disability lawyers in Chicago can confirm, most other forms of assistance do not affect SSD eligibility. This is because SSD benefits are not awarded based on financial need. People cannot receive SSD benefits if they engage in work with monthly income over a set threshold. However, the SSA does not create similar restrictions on incoming public assistance. The following forms of assistance have no impact on a person’s eligibility for SSD benefits:

  • Medicaid
  • Food stamps
  • Housing vouchers
  • TANF benefits
  • State welfare

People who collect Supplemental Security Income benefits may also be able to collect SSD benefits. However, the financial requirements for both programs are distinct. SSI is only available to people with severely limited assets and income. SSD is awarded to people with adequate earnings records and monthly wages below a prescribed threshold.

Financially surviving the wait for SSD claim approval while maintaining eligibility for benefits can be challenging. People with concerns about collecting public benefits or assistance should consider speaking with disability lawyers in Chicago. A lawyer may be able to explain how collecting public assistance or other benefits could affect SSD eligibility.

Seeking SSD benefits for emotional illnesses

AngerChallenges of establishing emotional or mood disorders

Many people in Illinois suffer from emotional illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety affects 18 percent of Americans, while depression affects 6.7 percent. These illnesses can be physically and emotionally debilitating, and some may even qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. However, proving this is the case can be difficult, as many Social Security lawyers in Chicago know.

The causes of emotional illnesses are sometimes unclear, since both neurological and environmental factors can contribute. Symptoms are often self-reported, which can make establishing credibility difficult. Still, there are a few ways that victims may qualify for benefits, depending on the nature of their conditions.

“Blue Book” conditions

The Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” contains a list of conditions that are considered disabling if they satisfy set requirements. Various disabling emotional illnesses appear in the book, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, stress and certain phobias.

For most emotional illnesses, the Blue Book details specific symptoms and limitations people seeking benefits must establish. For instance, an applicant with an anxiety-related disorder must document flashbacks, compulsions, avoidance behaviors, panic attacks or certain physical symptoms. The applicant must also prove he or she cannot function outside of the home or perform regular daily activities.

Applicants can document these signs and symptoms with observations and statements from treating physicians. Statements from close personal sources can also help establish the effects of an emotional illness. Applicants also must prove they meet Blue Book criteria with supporting medical evidence. This could include records of psychological or neurological evaluations, testing and treatments.

Other emotional illnesses

If a condition does not meet Blue Book requirements, an applicant may still receive a medical-vocational allowance. The SSA awards allowances to people who cannot reasonably work due to their impairments. As Social Security lawyers in Chicago can explain, the SSA may consider various symptoms or limitations a person faces, including:

  • Cognitive issues, such as deficits in memory, focus or persistence
  • Difficulty functioning appropriately in social settings
  • Physical symptoms, such as fatigue, low energy levels or sleep disturbances
  • Adverse side effects of medication used to manage the emotional illness

When awarding an allowance, the SSA considers the cumulative effects of any conditions the individual suffers from. Applicants who suffer from a combination of impairments may be likelier to receive benefits through a medical-vocational allowance.

Unfortunately, documenting the disabling effects of an emotional illness can be challenging, since objective evidence is often limited. Victims of emotional illnesses may want to consider partnering with Social Security lawyers in Chicago when seeking benefits. An attorney may be able to provide advice on securing documentation that meets the SSA’s strict standards.