When to File for Disability in Illinois - tip: don't wait

If you have a condition in Illinois that either A. prevents you from working, B. prevents you from working and earning a sustainable wage (social security actually has a definition for this and it is called substantial gainful activity), or C. is progressively getting worse, to the extent that you believe your ability to work will become seriously comprised----then consider filing for Social Security Disability.

In the third example I listed above (C), you will not be able to file for disability if you are working AND and earning more than the yearly limit for substantial gainful activity (the link above defines this and lists this year's amount). Even so, however, if your condition is worsening, you should probably start putting some information together. That is, write down your medical treatment sources, dates of treatment, diagnoses, the names of your doctors, your work history, and so forth. That way, when the time comes, you will have this information ready.

You may also want to find out which social security office is closest to you since this is where you will want to apply for disability. Yes, you can file online (only for Social Security Disability, not for SSI) or do your interview over the phone. But, since a field office CR (CR means claims rep and claims reps are the individuals who take disability applications at social security offices) will have questions for you, and you, likewise, will have questions to ask, you may as well apply in person.

In the first two examples I listed above (A and B), don't hesitate to start an application for disability. Why? Because the process is very long. Just the application itself may take several months to process. And if it is denied (70 percent of applications are denied) and you file a request for reconsideration, this will also take several months (and 85 percent of these are generally denied).

What happens if you get denied at the first two levels of the system? You can request a hearing before an administrative law judge where, statistically, you will have a much better chance of being approved versus attempting to start over with a new claim. However, the wait at this level becomes amazingly long, sometimes as long as two years.

In other words, if your condition prevents you from working, is preventing you from earning a liveable wage, or is rapidly getting to the point where either situation may occur, don't wait to file a claim with SSA, simply file it.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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