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IL SSDI lawyerLife can be difficult for many people who have disabilities. One of the ways the government helps those people is by providing financial assistance through the Social Security Administration (SSA). There are two programs that the SSA runs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs get thousands of applications each year, but not everyone is approved. In some cases, the information provided at the time they applied was either incorrect or not sufficient to allow them to begin collecting benefits. When applying for either program, it is important that you have all of the required information organized and prepared.

Personal Information

First, the SSA will want to know all of your personal information. This would include things like your name, social security number, and place of birth. If you have ever been in the military, they want to know what branch you were in and your dates of enlistment and discharge. They will also want to know whether or not you have a spouse or any children. If you do, they will want their identifying information, including their date of birth and social security numbers. If you were married and/or divorced, you should know the dates of those events.

Information About Your Medical Condition

Next, the SSA will want to know about your medical condition that causes you to be disabled. They will ask you to provide the name and contact information of someone who is familiar with your disability that they can contact if you need assistance with your claim. They will also ask you to list all of your medical conditions, injuries, and illnesses that prevent you from working. You must also provide the contact information for any physicians, hospitals, and/or clinics and the date of service for any medical treatment you have received. You should also provide information about any medications you may be taking and any medical tests you have had done.

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IL disabilityIf you suffer from injuries or illnesses that make it difficult or impossible for you to continue working and earning an income, you may be able to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, the process of applying for disability benefits can be complicated, and applications are often denied. When appealing a disability denial, it is important to understand the factors that will be reviewed to determine whether you are disabled and eligible to receive benefits.

Analysis of Whether a Person Is Disabled

When reviewing a plaintiff’s appeal of the denial of Social Security disability benefits, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is required to perform a five-step analysis in which the following questions are considered, in order:

  • Is the plaintiff currently unemployed?
  • Do the plaintiff’s medical issues constitute a severe impairment?
  • Is the plaintiff’s impairment one of the specific impairments listed in Social Security regulations, or is it equal to one of these impairments?
  • Is the plaintiff unable to perform work in their former job?
  • Is the plaintiff unable to perform work in another occupation?

An answer of “yes” to either step three or step five will result in a finding that the plaintiff is disabled. If the plaintiff can meet the requirements of step four and show that they are unable to perform work they have done in the past, the Commissioner of Social Security has the burden of proof to show that the plaintiff should be able to find work based on the available jobs in the national economy that meet their physical limitations.

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IL disability lawyerWhen applying for Social Security disability benefits, a person will need to provide evidence to show that they have severe physical or mental impairments that affect their ability to find gainful employment. If disability benefits are denied, a person can appeal this decision, and their case will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). In these types of hearings, the ALJ must base their decision on evidence provided by both sides, as well as the opinions of medical and vocational experts. Any additional evidence considered by the ALJ is known as “extra-record evidence,” and certain rules apply regarding when this type of evidence can be used.

Magistrate Reverses ALJ’s Decision Based on Reliance on Extra-Record Evidence

A recent case in Illinois, Elizabeth D. v. Commissioner of Social Security, illustrates when extra-record evidence can and cannot be used by an ALJ. In this case, a woman had been found disabled in 2003 after receiving kidney and pancreas transplants. In 2011, Social Security determined that she was no longer disabled, and she appealed this decision, stating that in addition to her prior medical issues, she also suffered from extreme fatigue, depression, anxiety, migraines, and personality disorder.

When reviewing the evidence, the ALJ chose to give limited weight to the opinions of a doctor who had been treating the plaintiff since 2003, since this doctor’s opinions relied heavily on the plaintiff’s subjective complaints. Instead, the ALJ gave great weight to the opinion of a doctor who saw the plaintiff twice in preparation for hysterectomy surgery. This doctor stated that the plaintiff had an exercise capacity of 10 METs.

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