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.
When gathering medical evidence, applicants should consider how they will most likely qualify for benefits. An applicant may qualify in the following ways:
- Meeting the medical requirements for a condition listed in the “Blue Book” of impairments
- “Equaling” a listing in the Blue Book with symptoms or secondary conditions that are equal in severity to the listing
- Qualifying for a medical-vocational allowance based on the functional limitations the disability causes
Applicants who may meet or equal a listing should show they meet the relevant criteria by documenting any listed symptoms and taking any specified tests. Applicants who may qualify through a medical-vocational allowance should demonstrate how the disability affects daily life and ability to work.
Applicants should include all serious impairments they suffer from on the SSD application, including mental conditions. Even if none of the conditions independently qualify for benefits, the SSA may find that, collectively, the conditions prevent gainful employment.
Finally, applicants should establish an ongoing treatment record to show the duration of the disability. Applicants also must prove they have complied with recommended treatments. Otherwise, the SSA may question whether the condition would be disabling with proper management.
Even if medical evidence supports an applicant’s claim, denial may occur if the applicant is not cooperative and credible. Applicants should always comply with SSA requests, observe relevant deadlines and avoid actions that contradict their claims.
People seeking SSD benefits may hurt their claims by working or collecting unemployment benefits. The SSA makes benefits available to people with monthly income less than $1,070, but working at this income level may suggest an ability to work gainfully. Similarly, collecting unemployment benefits indicates an individual is physically capable of performing work.
Finally, many applicants assume they cannot afford to work with an SSD attorney or do not need an attorney. However, most Illinois injury lawyers work on a contingency basis and only collect fees if benefits are awarded. Furthermore, an attorney can reduce an applicant’s risk of claim denial based on technical errors, poor documentation or other avoidable mistakes.