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drug abuse, disability, Chicago Social Security Disability AttorneyDrug abuse is often a sign a person suffers from a serious mental disorder. While mental disabilities may qualify a person for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, officials are often too quick to dismiss applicants based on a record of drug abuse. But as a federal magistrate in Illinois recently noted, “recognizing the sometimes subtle distinction between applicants whose mental disorder causes the applicants to abuse drugs compared to applicants whose drug abuse triggers mental disorders can be difficult to discern at times.” Nevertheless, there are legal guidelines in place for making such distinctions and Social Security officials cannot simply ignore them.

The Role of “Decompensation” in Assessing Mental Disorders

Indeed, the magistrate quoted above chided Social Security for failing to properly review the claim of a woman who suffered from “severe mental health issues.” According to records, the applicant has been struggling with depression since childhood. She attempted to kill herself on at least five occasions and was hospitalized several times for “major depressive disorder” and drug abuse. Not only was she hospitalized six times over a two-year period, she was admitted to the hospital on the day her initial hearing before Social Security was scheduled.

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By Jonathan L. Pearson

social security processing time, Chicago social security disability lawyerAs of July 2015 the average hearing office processing time has increased to 511 days. This figure is alarmingly close to the all-time high of 532 days on average that was recorded back in 2008. The average hearing office processing time has been increasing each month so far through the fiscal year 2015.

Congress has fallen short in its ability to deliver the necessary resources properly in order to process Social Security disability claims adequately. Unfortunately, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) have been leaving or retiring, and funding has not yet been increased enough to hire enough judges. Further, Congress has capped the number of dispositions each ALJ can issue in one year, at 720. This was done in response to too many decisions being issued each year awarding benefits to disabled individuals (in the opinion of politicians).

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1) Disability Onset

Most claimants try to push their onset of disability back as far as possible, thinking that they will get more money in back-benefits when they win their case. This is not accurate. The maximum allowable back-benefits for an SSI application is likely the date of filing. Making the mistake of pushing the alleged onset back too far can have significant consequences when it comes time for DDS to evaluate your claim.

2) Income

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