Deciding whether to apply for Social Security disability benefits

At our Springfield disability law firm, potential claimants often ask “Do you think that I ought to apply for Social Security disability benefits?” To answer this question, you should consider two factors:

  • Are you suffering from a mental or physical impairment that keeps you from working?
  • Has your impairment lasted for 12 continuous months (or is it expected to last at least 12 continuous months)?

If you answer yes to both questions, then you should apply for Social Security disability benefits. To file your claim for benefits you can (1) phone 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment, or (2) fill-out an application on line at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability/adult.htm.

For more information about the initial application, read my articles How Illinois Social Security disability applicants file the initial claim and Tips for applying.

Determining if you are disabled

Like many central and southern Illinois disability applicants, you may be curious about whether you qualify for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration will use a five-step evaluation process to determine whether or not you are disabled:

  1. You cannot engage in “substantial gainful activity”; and
  2. You must have a “severe” medically determinable impairment; and
  3. Your impairment has to meet or “equal” one of the impairments described in the Social Security regulations known as the “Listing of Impairments;” or
  4. You must be unable to do your “past relevant work”; and
  5. You must be unable to perform other work that exists in significant numbers, considering your “residual functional capacity,” age, education, and work experience.

For more on the five-step process and definitions of quoted terms, read The sequential evaluation process.

Appealing the initial decision

Do not despair if your initial application for Illinois disability benefits is denied. The Social Security Administration denies the majority of initial applications. However, this is only the beginning of the process. You have opportunities to appeal the decision. And it is usually through the appeals process that disabled Illinois Social Security claimants are able to obtain benefits.

Your chances of obtaining benefits will improve considerably if you appeal. More than half of Illinois Social Security disability applicants who appeal are ultimately awarded disability benefits. For more details on how to appeal, read Advice for appealing.

But when you are sick or hurting, fighting with the federal government is not what you need to be doing. Assistance with your appeal from a dedicated and experienced Springfield Illinois disability attorney can help you obtain your benefits so you can focus on caring for yourself.

We help with the request for reconsideration (which is typically denied) and then with the request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. Only by continuing the appeals process through to the hearing before an administrative law judge will most claimants obtain their benefits.