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disability benefits, Chicago Social Security attorney, apply for disability, disability claim, Illinois disability caseThe Social Security Administration uses a five-step process to determine whether or not someone is eligible for disability benefits. At the first step, a Social Security administrative law judge will “consider your work activity.” Legally, a person is only considered disabled if he or she has been unable to “do any substantial gainful activity” due to their medical impairments “for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” In plain English, you generally need to be out of work for at least one year before you can apply for disability.

Judge Rejects Fired Schoolteacher's Disability Claim

This is not to say you cannot earn any money in the 12 months preceding the alleged onset date of your disability. Social Security defines “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) as a monthly threshold. For example, in 2018 a person may earn up to $1,180 per month and still qualify for disability benefits (or $1,970 if they are blind). There are also cases where a handicapped person may engage in “sheltered employment” without it constituting SGA.


Social Security disability cases, Chicago disability benefits attorney, onset date of disability, Illinois disability case, disability benefitsA key issue in Social Security disability cases is determining when an applicant actually became disabled, i.e. no longer able to work as a matter of law. Disability benefits are supposed to begin five months after this official onset date. And since many disability applicants—especially here in the Chicago area—must wait years for a favorable decision from Social Security, accrued benefits must be paid from the start of this post-five month waiting period.

Social Security Cited for Misrepresenting Doctor's Testimony

In determining a disability onset date, Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) are expected to rely on medical evidence and not their own intuition or guesswork. Of course, that does not stop some ALJs from attempting to do just that. While federal courts consistently have to remind Social Security of its legal obligations, such reminders only serve to extend the waiting period for disability applicants who desperately need income now.


deny disability benefits, PTSD, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, Social Security Disability Insurance, Illinois disability casePost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Not surprisingly, PTSD is sadly common among veterans of the U.S. armed forces, especially those who have participated in combat operations. In many cases a veteran suffering from PTSD is unable to return to work, even in the civilian world, and may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Social Security Rules Ex-Marine Can Still Work PTSD “Triggers”

It is important to note, however, that just because a veteran qualifies for military disability benefits, that does not mean Social Security will automatically approve a subsequent application. Social Security has its own rules for assessing a disability. And when it comes to PTSD, the agency may conclude—contrary to the opinion of the Department of Veterans Affairs—that a person is still capable of holding down a full-time job, even if his or her symptoms render them unfit for certain kinds of work.


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