Social Security Disability Benefits

Americans are Living Longer, but in Poorer Health. What this Means for Social Security.

Chicago Social SecurityAs new medical technologies make their way into widespread use, people are living longer.Unfortunately, many who benefit from
these advances find themselves dealing with a long-term disability,often before retirement age. This could lead to changes in policy and the way that social security disability programs work.


Chicago Celebrates ADA 25th with Increased Access

LawChicago Celebrates ADA 25th with Increased Access

The 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is being marked in Chicago by an effort to increase access to museums and other cultural venues for disabled people. The “25 for 25” initiative, which aimed to entice 25 cultural venues to become more accessible to those with disabilities, was envisioned by Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium founder and co-chairperson Christena Gunther. The initiative was meant to enhance responsiveness between advocates for disability rights and cultural organizations. The success of 25 for 25 has become apparent, spawning a variety of more accessible exhibits in 30 different organizations. […]

The Disability Insurance Bailout

Congress has been debating over the issue of disability insurance reform for decades now, but instead of developing a solution that offers meaningful reform, they continuously reallocate funds from other government programs, such as Social Security. In Fact, a budget deal that was just recently decided is set to borrow approximately $150 billion from the Social Security trust fund over the next three years to keep the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund from becoming depleted. While a solution like this might prove to keep the disability insurance program solvent temporarily, Americans should remember that a more permanent solution needs to be in the future.

Bi-Partisan Budget Act Extends Social Security Benefits

 Social Security cardsA new bill, negotiated between Congress and the White House was recently released. This bill is important for recipients of benefits from two major federal programs, Medicare and Social Security. It is particularly relevant for those who receive Social Security Disability Insurance.


What is Residual Functional Capacity and How Does It Affect your SSD Case?

Social SecurityAnyone that is applying for social security disability payments is going to be evaluated by a claims examiner at the DDS (Disability Determination Services). The evaluation performed by the claims examiner will include a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment that is performed by a medical or psychological consultant at the DDS. This RFC assessment helps the claims examiner figure out whether or not to approve or deny the claim.

A Breakdown of the RFC Assessment

The DDS physician will rate the residual functional capacity of the person filing the claim based on that individual’s medical evidence. There are two types of RFC assessments – physical and mental.

  • Physical – A physical RFC assessment is based on the physical ability that an individual has to perform normal day-to-day activities. For example, the ability to walk, crouch or stand for certain periods of time. Some of the other factors that will be considered include how well the individual can manipulate, grasp and reach over head as well as how much the individual can lift.
  • Mental – A mental RFC assessment will be performed by either a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Mental symptoms, such as illogical thinking and poor memory, are taken into consideration, as are the individual’s ability to focus and concentrate, their ability to interact in a social setting and their ability to engage in simple, routine and repetitive tasks.

Submitting an RFC Assessment by a Treating Doctor

The DDS will use medical records to determine whether the application is approved or declined. However, the claim stands a better chance if it is submitted with an RFC assessment provided by their personal doctor.The Social Security Administration gives greater weight to a treating doctor’s assessment because the physician examines the patient and more accurate, metrics-based determination of disability.

An RFC completed by a treating doctor is always preferable, no matter how favorable the medical evidence is to the applicant. Medical information can often be interpreted in different ways, which means that having an RFC completed out by a personal doctor will provide a more clear conclusion as to the disability of the applicant.

Residual functional capacity assessments play an important part in determining whether a social security disability claim is approved. Social security claims are difficult to win without the necessary evidence. A physician-prepared residual functional assessment will greatly strengthen any social security disability claim.

Working and Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits

social security benefits formAs with any government benefit program, there are many myths surrounding social security disability insurance. One of the most common misconceptions is that recipients of disability benefits are not allowed to work. While a high-paying full-time position is out of the question for a disability benefit recipient, working part-time might still be an option. […]

Can I receive SSD if I have been diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis?

Gestresste ApothekerinClaiming arthritis with disability lawyers in Chicago

Inflammatory arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks healthy joint tissue. This disease typically causes swelling, stiffness and pain. As most disability lawyers in Chicago understand, inflammatory arthritis is a common cause of adult disability. This disease can severely limit a person’s ability to work and perform other tasks. Fortunately, victims may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

Meeting medical requirements

Victims of inflammatory arthritis may qualify for SSD benefits in two ways. They may meet criteria outlined in the “Blue Book,” which lists conditions and requirements those conditions must meet to qualify as disabling. People with inflammatory arthritis may also receive SSD benefits if the disease and other factors effectively preclude employment.

As disability lawyers in Chicago could confirm, inflammatory arthritis has its own Blue Book listing. It is considered disabling if one of these requirements is met:

  • A major weight-bearing joint shows persistent deformation or inflammation, impeding the victim in walking. Alternately, a hand or arm joint may show the same symptoms and prevent the performance of fine motor tasks.
  • A peripheral joint shows deformation or inflammation, and the arthritis moderately affects two organs or body systems. Applicants must document related symptoms, such as fatigue, malaise, fever or unintentional weight loss.
  • The disease persistently causes the above symptoms. Inflammatory arthritis also must limit the person in functioning socially, performing activities of daily living or completing tasks in reasonable time.
  • The person suffers from spinal arthritis that causes the spine to deviate 45 degrees from vertical. If this condition affects two organs or body systems, victims only need to document deviation of 30 degrees.

People who don’t meet these criteria may receive benefits for disabling inflammatory arthritis based on their inability to work. In either case, applicants must support their claims with objective evidence and assessments from licensed physicians.

Additional criteria

People who meet these requirements aren’t guaranteed SSD benefits. Beneficiaries additionally must meet non-medical criteria. The Social Security Administration considers these criteria before even assessing a claimant’s disability.

As disability lawyers in Chicago know, people who perform “substantial gainful activity” cannot receive SSD benefits. In 2015, this is generally work with monthly income exceeding $1,090. Blind claimants, however, may earn up to $1,820. The nature of self-employed work is evaluated based on hours and duties, along with income.

The SSA offers benefits through two programs, and claimants must meet distinct criteria to qualify for either. Supplemental Security Income benefits are awarded to people whose income and assets fall below set thresholds. Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are available to people with adequate earnings records. Unfortunately, people who don’t meet these criteria can’t receive benefits, no matter how disabling their impairments are.

Once you are approved for benefits, when will you start receiving checks?

Projecting SSD payment dates with a Social Security attorney

The Social Security Disability claim evaluation process can be lengthy. As a result, once a claim is approved, many applicants in Illinois want to know when they will start receiving benefits. The date that benefits begin can vary significantly between applicants, as any Social Security attorney could attest. This is because numerous factors affect when SSD payments start. (article continues below infographic) Once you are approved for benefits, when will you start receiving checks
Waiting periods

After a claim is approved, the Social Security Administration verifies each applicant’s eligibility for benefits. The SSA checks whether an applicant has started performing “substantial gainful activity.” If an applicant qualifies for Supplemental Security Income, the SSA also confirms that the applicant meets financial criteria.

For these reasons, Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries may receive their benefits before SSI beneficiaries. SSDI benefits may be disbursed the month after claim approval, while SSI payments often arrive two or three months later. However, SSDI beneficiaries may have to wait longer because of the mandatory SSDI waiting period.

The SSA withholds SSDI benefits until five months after the disability onset date. Often, this waiting period ends before a claim is even approved. However, people who qualified for expedited claim processing may have to wait for this period to pass.

Payment schedule

SSD benefits are paid in arrears. As a Social Security attorney could explain, beneficiaries don’t receive checks during the month in which they first qualify for benefits. Instead, they receive payment the following month. Consequently, SSDI beneficiaries cannot collect benefits until six months after the disability onset date.

The type of benefit a person receives affects the date that payments arrive. SSD benefits are disbursed throughout the month on the following dates:

  • SSI beneficiaries receive payments on the first day of each month. If the first day falls on a weekend or holiday, payments are made on the last business day of the previous month.
  • SSDI beneficiaries with birthdays during the first 10 days of the month receive benefits on the second Wednesday.
  • SSDI beneficiaries with birthdays during the second 10 days of the month receive benefits on the third Wednesday.
  • Other SSDI beneficiaries receive benefits on the fourth Wednesday.

People who are eligible for both SSI and SSDI benefits receive their payments on the third day of the month. When this date falls on weekends or holidays, the payment date changes to the last business day before.

Tracking payments

After claim approval, each claimant should receive a Notice of Award letter. As a Social Security attorney could explain, this letter details the payment amount, disability onset date and payment date. If payments have not started by this date, beneficiaries may want to contact Social Security to check the status of their payments.

Brain injury victims may suffer subdural hematomas

Glowing brain with spineCommon injuries with serious complications

Subdural hematoma is bleeding on the surface of the brain that develops after trauma. When this condition is chronic, blood can gradually accumulate and cause complications such as muscle weakness or cognitive impairment, according to Forbes. These effects may be highly debilitating, as most disability attorneys in Chicago would agree. Unfortunately, victims of brain injuries are often at risk for developing this condition.

A growing problem

Subdural hematoma can result from falls or seemingly minor injuries. Older adults may have a higher risk of this condition, due to atrophy of brain tissue and cells. The use of blood-thinning medications may exacerbate this danger. People with alcohol addictions may also be at greater risk, since alcohol thins the blood and makes falls more likely.

Many people may not realize they have suffered subdural hematomas, leading to delayed treatment and greater complications. Even after victims undergo surgical drainage, they are more likely to have difficult recoveries. Compared to brain surgery patients, patients with subdural hematomas require more extensive hospitalization and rehabilitation after surgery.

A study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery anticipates that this condition will become more common as the population ages. The study predicts the following outcomes:

  • By 2030, chronic subdural hematoma will represent the most common reason for adult brain surgery.
  • The rate of this injury will increase notably among veterans, from 79.4 to 121.4 cases per 100,000 people.
  • These increases may result in a shortage of neurosurgeons to treat the condition.

Sadly, this shortage, along with the nature of the injury, may leave patients at risk for complications or long-term disablement.

Addressing disabling injuries

Social Security Disability benefits may be available to people who can’t work due to brain injuries or related complications. The Social Security Administration may consider various side effects of brain injuries disabling, as any disability attorneys in Chicago know. These include seizure, stroke and epilepsy. The SSA also recognizes cognitive decline due to physical injury as disabling if victims suffer from specific symptoms or functional restrictions.

Even if a traumatic brain injury doesn’t automatically qualify as disabling, a victim may receive a medical-vocational allowance. An allowance is granted if a person’s functional limitations and skills or knowledge prevent the person from reasonably pursuing gainful employment. When awarding an allowance, the SSA may consider all physical, cognitive and psychological effects of a brain injury.

Properly documenting these effects can be difficult. In addition to objective evidence, victims should provide third party statements to support their claims. A doctor can assess a victim’s functional capabilities, while personal sources can describe the lingering effects of the injury. To ensure adequate documentation, many victims may benefit from partnering with disability attorneys in Chicago.

Is epilepsy considered a disabling condition with Social Security?

Neglected lonely childCriteria for SSD claims involving epilepsy

Epilepsy is a disorder characterized by unpredictable seizures of varying intensity levels. This disorder is incurable, and medications cannot always effectively control the seizures. Consequently, victims often face significant risks during daily activities, such as driving or performing certain jobs. As Chicago disability lawyers could confirm, individuals with especially severe cases may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

Evaluating epilepsy

The Social Security Administration automatically considers convulsive epilepsy disabling if it meets criteria outlined in the “Blue Book.” SSD applicants must document monthly daytime seizures that cause unconsciousness or convulsions. Alternately, applicants can document monthly nighttime seizures that interfere with daytime activity by causing fatigue or other extended effects. These seizures must persist despite three months of treatment.

Non-convulsive epilepsy may also automatically be classified as disabling if it meets Blue Book criteria. Applicants must suffer from weekly seizures even after three months of approved treatment. These seizures must cause disorientation or loss of consciousness. Additionally, these seizures must interfere with daily activities or produce abnormal lingering behaviors.

Epilepsy may qualify as disabling even if it doesn’t meet these criteria, as any Chicago disability lawyers can attest. The SSA may consider epilepsy disabling if it prevents a person from working gainfully. To decide whether this is the case, the SSA evaluates the individual’s symptoms and limitations. The SSA also reviews the person’s education, vocational skills and work history. This helps the SSA determine what kind of work, if any, the applicant can perform.

Necessary evidence

People seeking SSD benefits for epilepsy must provide specific documentation to support their claims. To prove epilepsy meets Blue Book requirements or prevents employment, applicants must submit the following medical evidence:

  • A diagnosis and supporting evidence. This includes EEG results and records of past seizures.
  • A description of a typical seizure. The description should include all symptoms that manifest during the seizure.
  • Supporting third-party statements. A witness should provide a description of a seizure. A treating physician should also give a statement about the nature and frequency of the seizures.
  • Proof of medication use. As Chicago disability lawyers understand, the SSA requires evidence that epilepsy cannot be controlled through treatment. Blood tests showing medication levels can demonstrate appropriate medication use.

If medication use isn’t feasible due to financial constraints or side effects, applicants should document those factors.

People who cannot meet Blue Book terms should also provide information about their vocational backgrounds. Specifically, applicants should describe the physical and mental requirements of all recently held jobs. This information can help the SSA understand why epilepsy prevents a person from performing those jobs. Accounts of education and work skills, similarly, can illustrate why an applicant cannot pursue other work.