Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits
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To apply for disability benefits, a person should follow these steps:
- Obtain appropriate medical care for the illness or injury. Be sure to document all aspects of the treatment and condition. This will be very important to develop your case for disability benefits.
- File an application with any Social Security office, known as a "Disability Report." When to file a claim can be difficult since there is a requirement to prove that the disability has prevented or will prevent the person from working for at least 12 months, but you can file any time that you believe you will be disabled for at least 12 months. Filing may be done over the telephone, by mail, or in person.
- After you submit your claim, it will be sent to a Disability Determination Services office. In Illinois, the main office is located in Springfield. The person assigned to your claim will gather additional information and make an initial determination as to whether your claim warrants disability benefits. In some cases, the Disability Determination Services office may ask the applicant to undergo an examination.
- After the Disability Determination Services office makes a decision, the Social Security Administration (the agency responsible for determining and issuing social security benefits) will adopt that decision and the applicant will receive a written notice of the decision. If the claim is approved, the notice will tell the applicant the benefit amount and the monthly payments will start. However, if the claim is denied, the notice will give a reason for the denial.
In a majority of cases, the initial claim for benefits is denied. However, you should not give up on receiving social security benefits just yet. There are three levels of administrative appeals that are available to you. Again, because these appeals become more complicated, we strongly advice you to consult an attorney to assist with the process.
The first appeal is a Request for Reconsideration. This is basically serves as a second initial determination but by a different person at the Disability Determination Services office. Rarely does a Request of Reconsideration result in the approval of a previously denied claim. However, if you are denied at this point an Illinois social security attorney can get involved.
The second appeal is to a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At this stage, it is exceptionally important to have an attorney that is knowledgeable and experienced in Social Security law and has a track record of success in obtaining social security benefits for their clients. This is usually where you win or lose. The attorneys that handle social security disability appeals at this level only get paid if they make a recovery for you.
Third, if the Administrative Law Judge still denies the applicants claim for benefits, the applicant may request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council.
If all of these administrative appeals steps are followed and the claimant still has been denied benefits, he or she may file a lawsuit in federal court. However, there are time limits for each level of the appeals process, so it is important to be aware of deadlines and filing dates. For example, you only have 60 days from the date the notice of denial is received to file an appeal. If these deadlines are not met, your may forfeit your right to pursue your claim in federal court. Because of the complex nature of the appeals process and the frequent denial of disability benefits at the initial filing stage, we advise you to consult with a Social Security attorney who can assist you in bringing the strongest case possible for social security benefits. If you would like a referral please contact us.