Chicago Social Security Disability Lawyer  Businessman with spinal cord injury working on a laptopWhen a Chicago Social Security attorney accepts your disability case, you should make sure to first discuss the process that the case must go through before you receive approval. Understanding the process and everything it entails will allow you to go through each step of the process with ease.

What Happens When You First Apply

Your Chicago Social Security disability lawyer must explain to you what occurs when you first apply for benefits. When you submit your application, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send your case file to a Disability Determination Service (DDS) within your state to see if you meet the disability requirements of that state. The SSA is only interested in if you are medically eligible to receive benefits; they are not concerned with any other aspect, such as financial or legal, of your case. When the case is received, a case administrator that is either a M.D. or a D.O. will review the medical records to determine the severity of your disability. In an effort to be fair to all applicants, the Social Security Administration has implemented a five-step process that must be adhered to for each case. Each of these five steps must be addressed and addressed in a specific order. This ensures that each person receives impartial treatment by the case administrator. Understanding these five steps is crucial to the success of your case.

Step 1: Can You Be Considered As Being Involved in Substantial Gainful Activity?

Your Chicago Social Security attorney will explain that this first step is simply to determine if you are generating an income. The SSA wants to determine if you have worked since you became disabled or since you applied for benefits. Under Social Security guidelines, any income over $1,050.00 per month is considered gainfully employed and you will not qualify for benefits. This is equivalent to making about $240.00 per week. If you are making less than this amount, or you are not employed because of your disability, your case will proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Severity of Your Disability

The next step is to determine how severe your impairments are and how they limit your abilities. Your impairments may be considered “not severe,” “severe,” and “incapacitating.” Wording may vary from office to office or by preference of the examiner, however the meanings are the same. Your Chicago Social Security attorney will explain that if your disability is rated as not severe, your case is automatically dismissed. Not severe means that any symptoms you have by themselves or in combination with other symptoms or limitations do not prevent you from doing work. The effects of any impairment are what the examiner is looking at, and if there are things that can be done to correct the issue, they do not consider you disabled. For example, if you have a slipped disc in your back, and it is excruciating whenever you move, the examiner will find this as a “not severe” case because surgery or other therapies can correct this problem. However, if you have severe arthritis in your back and the doctor has tried everything and only foresees it becoming worse over time, the examiner will rate it as “severe” or “incapacitating.” If the examiner rates your disability as severe or incapacitating, your case is moved to the next step of the process.

Step 3: Is Your Disability on the List of Impairments?

The Listing of Impairments is a document used by the SSA to see if your impairment meets or exceeds their guidelines for disability. This document is based on Federal regulations and is the same for every case. The only difference that occurs in this list is if you are an adult or child. The examiner will take the facts of your disability and compare it to the list to determine if it meets or exceeds their requirements for being disabled. If all of your impairments are equal to or greater than the requirements found on this list, you are determined to be disabled and unable to perform substantial work. If your impairments are not found on the list, or if they are not as severe as the requirements, but you have several limitations, the examiner may still determine you are disabled by using an “equal standard” clause. This means that your disability is just as severe as any found on the government list. For the case examiner to legally use the equal standard clause, they must be able to prove one or more of the following:

  • The impairments that you are suffering from are not on the list but are equal in severity to impairments that are on the list.
  • You do not meet all of the conditions on the list, but medical testing shows that your impairment is equivalent to those on the list.
  • You have several impairments that if they stand alone do not cause a disability, but when combined make you disabled.

Your Chicago Social Security disability lawyer will explain the significance of this condition because it applies to many cases.

If the disability concerns a child, the impairment is considered “equal” to an adult. This is generally not used, but is still a condition for an equal standard classification. At this point, if you are determined to be disabled, your case is approved. However, if your impairments are not found on the list or classified as an equal standard your case moves to Step 4.

Step 4: Can You Perform Your Former Job Duties?

If your impairments did not meet the qualifications of the impairment list, the case examiner will look at the type of work you did prior to applying for benefits and determine if your impairments prevent you from doing the same work. Your Chicago Social Security disability lawyer will explain that this is very important and requires you to be very honest about your previous job duties. For example, if you have been diagnosed with arthritis in your back and your job requires heavy lifting throughout the day, your impairment may prevent you from completing your job duties. The examiner must have knowledge of your former job to make this assessment. If it is determined that your impairment prevents you from doing your job, your case moves to Step 5.

Step 5: Can You Work Another Job?

The SSA will then require the examiner to make a determination if you can perform other job duties that may not be as physically or mentally demanding. The examiner must determine if there is any other type of work you could perform in the country. It is very important to understand, they do not have to determine what type of job, whether or not it is of equal pay, whether it is something you want to do, if it is near your home, or if you have the proper training. They just need to determine if you can work. This applies to all cases unless you are over the age of 55, then the SSA may find that a change of jobs is not recommended based on age and experience and the need to retrain. However, if you have had any recent training or education, or if your skills can apply to current jobs, the examiner may overlook the age of exception and make a ruling that you can perform other duties. It should be noted that the SSA is not responsible for finding you a job, securing training for you for a new position, or relocating you if the jobs you qualify for are not in your area.

Speak to a Chicago Social Security Attorney Today

As you can see, filing for Social Security disability benefits can be a very long and complicated process. We understands this area of law and can help you maneuver through the application process. Whether you have just begun the application process, or you have been denied benefits and are ready to make an appeal, our attorneys are ready to review your case. Schedule a free consultation and have your case reviewed by an experienced attorney. There are never any upfront fees, and you only pay if we successfully get your application approved. We believe that by working on a contingency basis, everyone will have access to quality legal services, regardless of their current financial condition. Call us and schedule an appointment with a Chicago Social Security attorney today.