Illinois Social Security Disability Blog

New Medical Conditions Added to Compassionate Allowances Program

March 17th, 2014


The acting Social Security Commissioner, Carolyn Colvin, recently announced 25 new medical conditions that have been added to the agency’s Compassionate Allowances program. This now brings the total number of condition in this program to 225.

The Compassionate Allowances program was established for those people applying for Social Security disability benefits whose medical conditions are serious enough to clearly qualify under the administration’s Listing of Impairments. The program was developed after the agency held a serious of hearings on which diseases and medical conditions should be considered a compassionate allowance.  Since the program’s implementation, almost 200,000 people who have applied for Social Security disability because of medical conditions which are included have been approved quickly.

Medical conditions such as cancers, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, rare diseases, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disease and multiple organ transplants and autoimmune diseases are included in this program.

In her statement, Colvin said, “We are dedicated to providing vulnerable Americans with faster access to disability benefits through our Compassionate Allowances program. Social Security disability benefits are a vital lifeline for individuals who are facing severe diseases and we must ensure that they receive the benefits they rightly deserve.”

The 25 new conditions now included in this program are:

  • Angiosarcoma;
  • Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor;
  • Chronic Idiopathic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction;
  • Coffin- Lowry Syndrome;
  • Esthesioneuroblastoma;
  • Giant Axonal Neuropathy;
  • Hoyeaal-Hreidarsson Syndrome;
  • Intracranial Hemangiopericytoma;
  • Joubert Syndrome;
  • Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis;
  • Liposarcoma- metastatic or recurrent;
  • Malignant Ectomesenchymoma;
  • Malignant Renal Rhabdoid Tumor;
  • Marshall-Smith Syndrome;
  • Oligodendroglioma Brain Tumor- Grade III;
  • Pallister-Killian Syndrome;
  • Progressive Bulbar Palsy;
  • Prostate Cancer – Hormone Refractory Disease – or with visceral metastases;
  • Revesz Syndrome;
  • Seckel Syndrome;
  • Sjogren-Larsson Syndrome;
  • Small Cell Cancer of the Thymus;
  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma- with distant metastases or recurrent;
  • X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disease;
  • X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy.

If you are suffering from a medical condition that has left you unable to work, contact an experienced DuPage County Social Security disability attorney to see if your condition qualifies you for benefits.

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Social Security Disability Claim Denials on the Rise

February 1st, 2014


According to an article in the Times-Tribune, more and more people who are filing for Social Security disability claims are having their claims denied, not only by the initial claims officer who first looks at the claim, but with more frequency by the agency’s administrative law judges who hear appeal cases that claimants file. These denials are forcing more people to appeal their claims to federal court.

The Social Security Administration has released data that reveals consistent appeal denials. In 2010, 64 percent of the claims were granted disability. In 2011, that figure dropped to only 54 percent and even lower in 2012 – 48 percent.

The agency claims one of the reasons more claims are being denied is the poor economy. They say that people who have minor disabilities are filing for claims, something they wouldn’t be doing if the job market was better.

Many in the legal field disagree and say that although there may be some people filing fraudulent claims, there are far too many other legitimate claims being denied. One attorney shared with the Times the nightmare one of his clients went through trying to claim disability. The 39 year-old man suffered from Huntington’s disease, a disorder in which nerve cells degenerate. The disease is often fatal. The man had severe tremors, trouble with his balance and frequently suffered from confusion.

The man’s initial claim with Social Security was denied. On appeal, the administrative law judge affirmed the denial. His claim was eventually approved by a federal court judge on appeal, but the attorney pointed out, “It was a long struggle that took far more time than it should have. He had a degenerative neurological impairment. He had involuntary movement in his right hand and symptoms of dementia. A diagnosis like this is essentially a death sentence.”

If you’ve filed for a Social Security disability claim and have been denied at the initial level or at the reconsideration level, you should contact an experienced Chicago disability attorney right away to find out what legal steps you have the right to take in order to appeal your claim denial.

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Social Security Disability Benefit Numbers Reach Record High in December

January 24th, 2014


According to numbers released by the Social Security Administration, December 2013 saw a record number of people receiving disability benefits from the federal agency, especially when compared with the decline in approvals over the last few years. The total number of beneficiaries was 10,988,269. That was an increase over November’s total number of 10,982,920.

The average payment made to the 8,942,584 disabled workers receiving benefits was $1,146.43. This was an increase over December 2012 average benefit amount of $1,130.34. There were 4,642,906 males receiving benefits in December, with their average benefit at $1,271.46. Females receiving benefits totaled 4,299,678, and their average benefit amount was $1,011.42.

Certain family members of a disabled worker may also be entitled to Social Security disability benefits:

  • A spouse age 62 years or older;
  • A spouse of any age who is caring for a child who is either disabled or younger than 16 years old;
  • An unmarried child younger than 18 years old or younger than 19 years old if a full-time student. This may also include step-children and grandchildren;
  • An unmarried child age 18 years or older who is disabled. This disability must fall under the one of the agency’s definition of disability and must have started before the child turned 22 years old.

There were a total of 157,061 spouses of disabled workers who received an average benefit amount of $308.13 in December. The gender breakdown for this group was as follows: 8,482 males received an average amount of $282.78 and 148,579 females received $309.57 on average.

There were also a record number of children of disabled workers who received December benefits. A total of 1,888,624 children received an average benefit of $341.42 for the month. The Social Security Administration does not provide a gender breakdown for children. However, they do give a breakdown of the type of child who receives the benefit. There were 1,710,853 minor children (under 18 years old) who received $328.08 for the month; 117,314 disabled children (adult disabled before the age of 22) who received $472.04; and 60,457 students (high school student under age 19) who received $465.44 in December.

Although these are promising numbers for disabled workers, the process of being approved by the Social Security Administration for disability benefits is often a very complicated, drawn out process. If you have been denied benefits, contact a qualified Cook County Social Security disability attorney to see what options you may have in appeals.


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Social Security Disability and Mental Disorders

January 15th, 2014


The Social Security Administration specifically provides for the award of disability benefits for individuals who have been diagnosed with certain mental disorders and who meet the SSA’s criteria for disability.

The SSA relies, in part, on what is commonly known as the “Blue Book”, which contains the “Listing of Impairments”, to determine if you will meet its criteria for disability. The Listing of Impairments, which includes listings for both adults and children, appear in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in appendix 1 to subpart P of part 404. The Listing of Impairments describes, for each major body system, impairments considered severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any gainful activity (or in the case of children under age 18 applying for SSI, severe enough to cause marked and severe functional limitations). The Blue Book is divided into two main parts:

  • Part A is dedicated to adult disability assessments.
  • Part B is dedicated to childhood disability assessments.

The listings are just part of how SSA determines if you are disabled. With regard to adults, SSA also considers past work experience, severity of medical conditions, age, education, and work skills. For each major body system, the Blue Book contains a list of disabling conditions. For instance, you find fractures and spinal disorders addressed in the musculoskeletal section. The Listing of Impairments for adults suffering from mental illness can be found in Section 12.00 “Mental Disorders. According to these guidelines, in order for a disability claim to be approved on the basis of a mental disorder, SSA requires “documentation of a medically determinable impairment(s), consideration of the limitations such impairment(s) may impose on the individual’s ability to work, and consideration of whether these limitations have lasted or are expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.” The guidelines list mental disorders into nine different categories, each of which contain additional criteria that must be considered before disability benefits are awarded.

A subsection of the guidelines addresses affective disorders, which include one of the most common forms of mental disorders, depression.  Depression is described as a feeling of intense sadness coupled with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that last for an extended period of time and prevent normal, daily functioning.   In order to receive benefits due to depression, Section 12.04 requires that the depression be severe and that four of the following symptoms must apply:
  • Loss of interest in most activities,
  • Decreased energy,
  • Appetite disturbance,
  • Sleep disturbance,
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking,
  • Lack of physical activity,
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt,
  • Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking, or
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Another type of affective disorder covered by Section 12.04 is Bipolar disorder.  The guidelines require an individual seeking benefits to suffer from Bipolar syndrome with a history of episodes comprising both periods of mania and periods of depression.  Mania is defined as experiencing at least three of the following symptoms:

  • High levels of energy and activity,
  • Fast or frantic speech,
  • Hasty changing of ideas,
  • Inflated self-esteem,
  • Decreased need for sleep,
  • Easy distractibility,
  • Behavior that demonstrates a high disregard of obvious or known risks, or
  • Hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking.

In addition to the above symptoms related to Depression and Bipolar, the symptoms experienced must cause at least two of the following in order for benefits to be awarded: serious difficulty in daily living activities, social functioning, focusing, or repeated, extended periods of worsening symptoms, also known as episodes of decompensation.

Contact an attorney experienced in assisting clients with Social Security Disability claims to discuss the facts of your specific case and how they apply to the law set out by the Social Security Administration.  Contact us today to discuss the options and rights you have in your disability case in Illinois.

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Social Security Benefits for the Self-Employed

October 10th, 2013


The modern American workforce is changing, and it’s not just a demographic shift. The very jobs that Americans work today are different than ever before. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009 one in nine Americans was self-employed. That amounted to 15.3 million people in the U.S., “including both those who had incorporated their businesses and those who had not.” An even higher percentage of young people were employed in non-traditional structures—27 percent of Millennials, according to Digiday, were self-employed in 2013, and that generation will make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2030. With a shift in traditional job structures, of course, comes a shift in traditional entitlement programs—including Social Security.  

Just because the self-employed don’t pay taxes in the traditional way, it doesn’t make them exempt from paying Social Security. In fact, because his or employer doesn’t pay a portion of Social Security tax, a self-employed person actually carries the full weight of it; in 2013, according to the Social Security Administration, this was 15.3 percent on income up to $113,700. “If your net earnings exceed $113,700, you continue to pay only the Medicare portion of the Social Security tax, which is 2.9 percent on the rest of your earnings.”

According to the Huffington Post, there are many things a self-employed person should keep in mind for the future, when he or she is ready to collect Social Security. “Even if you qualify to collect Social Security,” which nearly all self-employed workers do, according to the Huffington Post, “every deduction for business expenses you take on Schedule C lowers your earnings for purposes of collecting Social Security.” Because the self-employed bear the full 15.3 percent Social Security tax rate (rather than the 7.515 percent rate that workers in traditional job structures pay), people will often try to take as many deductions as possible to offset the additional tax burden. “However, no one warns self-employed workers that taking deductions can diminish the amount received or even eliminate their right to collect Social Security when the time comes,” according to the Huffington Post.

If you or someone you know has Social Security questions because you are self-employed, or for any other reason, don’t go through it alone. Contact a dedicated Illinois Social Security attorney today.

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Tagged with Illinois Social Security, labor statistics, self-employed, social security, social security attorney, social security lawyer, tax, workforce

Social Security disability trust fund could begin failing as early as 2016

March 15th, 2013


LucyAlthough President Obama has been trying to defend the federal entitlement programs from the benefit cuts that Republicans claim to be necessary to keep the programs valid in the future, a piece of Social Security may fall short of paying full benefits within only a few years.

Long term, Social Security and Medicare have promised tens of trillions of dollars in benefits over what the nation can actually pay under the current policies. Social Security’s disability trust fund is in even worse shape than that, however, and current estimates show that by 2016, there won’t be enough money to pay full benefits.

Jim Capretta from the Ethics and Public Policy Center said, “That’s three years from now. And given the president’s rhetoric and his posture, it’s quite clear that he has no intention of doing anything about it.”

As the unemployment rate rose, the fiscal security of the disability trust became rapidly worse. In the last 10 years, the number of applications has almost doubled from 1.5 million in 2001 to over 2.8 million in 2012.

Obama has had little to say about how he would fix the finances of the fund.

“President Clinton talked about ‘mend it, don’t end it.’ To judge by (Obama’s) remarks, there’s nothing that needs mending on out entitlement system,” said Nicholas Eberstadt from the American Enterprise Institute.

In Obama’s first term, he took steps to make it easier for people to apply for disability payments, but did nothing to help the program pay bigger bills as it accommodated the larger number of beneficiaries.

Money will continue to come in as long as the country has workers because the programs are funded through payroll taxes, but with the country’s large aging population expected to collect more than the young workers are contributing, analysts say that at some point the programs will not have the money to pay the full benefits.

If you are concerned about your social security disability benefits or are considering applying for them, contact an experienced social security disability lawyer. Located in Chicago, IL, Attorney at Law, Marshall W. Conick can help you get the benefits that you need.

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Determining Social Security Disability

March 9th, 2013


According to the United States Social Security Administration, “the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities.” Disability insurance pays benefits to you and your family members if you have paid your fair share to the Social Security program. This usually means working until eligible age, which has changed in recent years. The age was 65 for a long time, but as of 2012, the full retirement age was 67—for anyone born after 1937. Benefits begin kicking in at age 62, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration, “but the reduction in your benefit amount will be greater than it is for people retiring now.” Benefits will be reduced by 30 percent if you begin taking them at 62; 25 percent at 63; 20 percent at 64; 13.3 percent at 65; and 6.7 percent reduction at age 66.  

Even though receiving Social Security benefits is a tried and true entitlement program in the United States, determining whether or not you qualify for Disability can be a complicated process. The most important first step in determining whether or not you qualify is to hire the assistance of a Social Security Disability attorney. The Social Security Administration uses a five-step process to determine if a person qualifies for Disability. Broken down simply, the determinates include (but are not limited to):

  • if you are able to work
  • the severity of your condition
  • if your condition is listed among the “disabling” conditions set forth by the Social Security Administration
  • if you’re able to do the work at which you were previously employed
  • if you’re able to perform any other type of work

Other requirements include your personal needs regarding income, and take into consideration special situations. Again, the most important step to determining whether or not you apply for Social Security Disability is to contact an attorney. Don’t go through it alone. Contact our offices today.

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Requirements for receiving SSI

March 2nd, 2013


ConickSocialRequirements...?The requirements for receiving Supplemental Security Income in the United States can be confusing without the help of a social security attorney. The following information is for reference, and can also be found on the Social Security Administration’s website.

So, who is eligible for Supplemental Security Income?

First, in order to apply, you need to be 65 years old or older, and either blind or disabled to receive SSI.

Blindness in the SSI program means “statutory blindness.” This means that “you have a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye with the use of a corrective lens; or you have a visual field limitation in your better eye, such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.” If you are not blind by this definition, you might still be eligible under a disability.

You will be considered “disabled” if you have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which results in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity, can be expected to result in death or has lasted at least 12 months, or is expected to last at least a continuous period of 12 months or more.

Additional requirements include having a limited income and limited resources. You must also be a resident of one of the 50 States.

As it is with any issue that involves a lot of bureaucracy, the requirements for SSI include a number of factors, and you might not always be able to understand all of the requirements yourself. This is why it is smart to contact a knowledgeable social security attorney in Illinois to help you with your case. Our Joliet, Illinois attorneys are ready to help you as soon as you contact our offices for a consultation.

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The State of Social Security Programs

February 28th, 2013


President Barack Obama defended his stance on entitlement programs during his second inaugural address.  He stated that “the commitments we make to each other- through Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security- those things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.  They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”  With that in mind, it is important to review the current state of Social Security Disability as it may change in the future.

In 2012, there were nearly 3 million applications for Social Security Disability benefits.  This has been the average for the last four years, but has almost doubled since the late 1990′s.  Although the percentage for approvals for these claims is lower than they’ve been in over twenty years at 34.74%, the number of people drawing these benefits is still staggering.

At the end of 2012, there was a record of 8.8 million people receiving Social Security Disability benefits.  Even though applications have only doubled since the late 1990′s and the approval ratings have lowered, those receiving benefits have tripled.  For each 17 people in the workforce, there is one person receiving benefits.  People seem to have continued to receive these benefits for a longer amount of time.

The bad news is that these benefits are part of other social welfare programs, which are increasingly close to being tapped out.  According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, these social welfare programs pay out $2.3 trillion of benefits which will bankrupt these funds during the second term of the Obama.

But, if you have been injured so badly that you are unable to work, you are entitled to benefits.  It might be the case that it will be harder to qualify for these benefits as social welfare programs are under more scrutiny.  That is why it is increasingly important to have the help of an experienced legal professional.  Contact a knowledgeable Social Security lawyer in Tinley Park who can be your advocate through this process.

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Program Speeds Up Disability Claims Process for Social Security Administration

February 23rd, 2013


LeeviThe Social Security Administration recently expanded a program that fast-tracks disability claims by people who get seriously ill, the Huffington Post reported in December. The program provides faster benefits and also eases the workload of the agency. When the economic recession began a few years ago, the number of disability claims increased dramatically and are up by over 20 percent from 2008. The program was expanded with 35 more diseases and conditions, bringing the total to 200. The Compassionate Allowances program includes both well-known conditions and rare diseases. Not all of the included conditions are necessarily lethal but often make work impossible in any case.

A high number of the diseases are rare and so serious that people who have them are considered disabled, according to Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue. If all the paperwork is in order, the agency can easily decide the cases without the usual time-consuming process. “Why for someone who is going to die within 15 months do we need 15 years of medical records?” Astrue said. “If somebody’s got a confirmed diagnosis of ALS, you know that in essence, it’s not only a disability, it’s a death sentence, and there is no use in burdening them with paperwork.”

Over 3 million people applied for disability benefits in 2012. Disability claims have a tendency to increase when the economy is on the downside because people who were able to work despite their disabilities lose their jobs and have to apply for benefits. Furthermore, people who do not qualify for benefits apply anyway because they are unemployed and do not have anywhere else to turn.

If you are considering filing for Social Security Disability, you will want to consult with an experienced benefits lawyer. Contact a knowledgeable Social Security disability attorney in Illinois at your earliest convenience.

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