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As Congress attempts to balance the national budget, they are making adjustments to the Social Security program that will have far reaching impacts on seniors in their golden years. These changes are part of a broader legislative platform that is seeking to revamp the way seniors file and collect their social security benefits.

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Social Security and Retirement Plans

The spinal cord carries nerve signals between the brain and body. A spinal cord injury can result in partial or total disruption of these signals, leading to loss of movement or sensation below the level of injury. While some losses are temporary, some spinal cord injury victims suffer permanent, debilitating changes, as many Social Security Disability lawyers Chicago know. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits may be available to victims of these disabling injuries.

Establishing disablement

SSD benefits are available to people who have suffered injuries that prevent any form of gainful employment. A medical condition is only considered disabling if it is anticipated to last longer than 12 months or result in mortality. As Social Security Disability lawyers in Chicago can explain, a person may qualify for SSD benefits by meeting the terms of a listing in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” or by qualifying for a medical-vocational allowance.

Work-related injuries contribute to about 1 in 20 cases of disability, according to the Council for Disability Awareness. Workers’ compensation insurance provides financial support to Illinois workers who have suffered disabling job-related injuries or illnesses. However, as any Illinois Social Security attorneys can explain, some of these workers may additionally be eligible to collect Social Security Disability benefits.

Two distinct systems

The SSD and workers’ compensation systems are entirely separate. States administer workers’ compensation programs, whereas Social Security benefits are awarded through federal programs. Receiving workers’ compensation benefits does not disqualify a person from seeking SSD benefits.

Blindness affects more than 1 million Americans over the age of 40, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The condition can introduce significant medical expenses and markedly restrict a person’s abilities. Many people who suffer from legal blindness in Chicago may struggle to work gainfully to support themselves. These individuals may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits and special exemptions to certain Social Security Administration rules

Qualifying for benefits

The Social Security Administration considers a person legally blind if vision in the person’s stronger eye meets one of two criteria after best correction. The visual field must be contracted to an angle of 20 degrees or less, or central visual acuity must be less than 20/200. People who are legally blind may qualify for benefits without further medical consideration. However, these individuals must have adequate earnings records, and they cannot engage in work the SSA considers gainful.

The Social Security Administration uses strict standards to evaluate whether disabled individuals qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. The SSD application process is also highly technical. Even if applicants in Chicago are severely disabled, they may face benefit denial due to errors during the application process. When seeking benefits, applicants should be careful to avoid the following common causes of claim denial.

Inadequate medical documentation

Many applicants fail to fully document their conditions with appropriate evidence. The SSA requires medical evidence from acceptable medical sources, which include psychologists, physicians, optometrists, podiatrists and speech-language pathologists. The SSA also prefers medical evidence from sources with a history of treating the applicant.

Chicago residents who suffer from disabling conditions often think their impairments clearly qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. However, many SSD claims are denied because of the Social Security Administration’s strict criteria for disabilities. When evaluating disability, the SSA uses Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, or the “blue book”. This book establishes medical and evidentiary standards that conditions must meet to be considered disabling.

Blue book standards

The blue book outlines the SSA definition of disability and the earnings requirements SSD applicants must meet. It also establishes evidentiary requirements for disability claims:

About 1 in 26 Americans will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some point, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition currently affects 2.3 million Americans, including many Chicago residents. Unfortunately, in 3 out of 10 cases, medication is not effective in preventing seizures and other disruptive symptoms, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

Social Security Disability benefits may be available to people who cannot work or perform daily activities due to epilepsy. However, these people must provide extensive medical documentation to show the condition is debilitating even with the use of appropriate medication.

Medical considerations

For people seeking Social Security Disability benefits, a telephone interview is often the most convenient or physically feasible option. However, many Illinois applicants do not know what to expect from this interview. Anyone applying for SSD benefits can benefit from understanding the interview and the information covered during it.

Focal points

The telephone interview allows a claims representative to collect an applicant’s medical and personal information. Initially, the representative will ask for identifying information, such as name and Social Security number. Once the applicant’s identity is established, the representative will move on to asking about the applicant’s condition, relevant skills and other personal information. Applicants should be prepared to discuss the following:

At some point, many people who collect Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income will rely on assisted care in a nursing home or similar facility. Unfortunately, changes in living arrangement can affect an Illinois resident’s SSI and SSD benefits. Staying in certain facilities can reduce benefit amounts or even affect benefit eligibility.

Types of facilities

Need-based SSI payments can be reduced if the recipient also collects other forms of income or support. Living in public facilities and facilities that accept Medicaid payments can lead to the reduction or outright loss of payments. The SSA uses the following criteria to determine how a nursing home stay affects an adult’s SSI disability benefits:

Many people in Illinois suffer from disabling conditions that do not match Social Security Administration “Blue Book” listings. When deciding whether to award Social Security Disability benefits to these individuals, the SSA considers each applicant’s residual functional capacity. It’s critical for applicants to understand what RFC is and how it affects disability award decisions.

Measuring functional limitations

RFC is an assessment of an individual’s physical and mental capabilities. An RFC form, which can be completed by a treating physician or an SSA doctor, outlines specific limitations a disability causes. An RFC could include the following information:

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