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Procedural Traps Can Damage or Ruin the SSDI Case of a Chicago Claimant Who Pursues a Case Without an Attorney

| May 29, 2024 | Social Security |

Recently, financial website The Motley Fool reported on possible changes to the rules governing eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. One of the changes proposed by President Trump would reduce disability payments by a total of $10 billion over the next 9 years… all by changing just one SSDI rule. Why do we bring that up? Do we mean that disability benefits are becoming harder to obtain and that you should give up on your claim? Absolutely not! What we do mean to say is that, even if obtaining disability benefits may be becoming more challenging, benefits are still available for those who have strong cases, the right supporting documentation and, in most cases, the right attorney. For that last one, reach out to an experienced Chicago Social Security Disability attorney.

Many people may worry about the cost of legal representation, but the value of having the right attorney on your side simply cannot be overstated. As an example, there’s the Social Security Disability case of W.R., from right here in Northern Illinois. (Case No. 18 C 50136.) The federal judge that heard this case stated that W.R. filed his case “pro se,” which meant he was doing it without an attorney. W.R. claimed, as his impairment, mental illness. Even with a mental impairment, W.R. went forward on his own. At his hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, he was still handling his case on his own, with no help from a lawyer.

As is not uncommon in cases where claimants decide to go forward without a lawyer, procedural problems eventually harmed him. W.R. had a one-page document from the Lake County Health Department. That log listed a series of appointments with several doctors, including a psychiatrist in Skokie and neurologist in Waukegan. That log, according to W.R., established that the onset date of his disability was in May 2010.

A document submitted too late was a document never considered in the final ruling

The administrative law judge, however, ruled that the claimant’s onset date was much later, meaning that he was entitled to a much smaller amount of benefits. Why did W.R. lose on this onset date argument? He lost because, although he had the Lake County Health Department log the whole time, he didn’t give it to the Administrative Law Judge. He introduced that log, for the first time, to the Appeals Council. By then, it was too late, and the Lake County log was never even considered in deciding his case.

As the federal judge explained in ruling against W.R., a “claimant is required to submit all of his or her relevant evidence to the ALJ for consideration. Serious consequences can ensue when a disability applicant fails to do so because the Appeals Council does not automatically consider [belatedly submitted] evidence.” When you, as a claimant, try to win an appeal based on documentation that you didn’t give to the Administrative Law Judge, that evidence will only be considered in specific situations, and only after you have made a detailed extra showing to indicate that the law demands consideration of your belatedly submitted evidence. In other words, you will have made your already challenging goal many times more challenging by failing to submit your evidence when you should have.

If W.R. had presented the Lake County log at the right time, it is distinctly possible his case could have had a much different (and more favorable) outcome.

The right Social Security Disability attorney can make a huge difference in your favor, navigating the often complicated and red-tape-filled world of pursuing your claim for benefits. With the right attorney, you can feel confident that your evidence is being presented properly… and at the right time. For that kind of reliable legal representation, reach out to the skilled Chicago Social Security Disability attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca about how best to meet your legal needs. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 312-724-5846 or through our website.