November 2007


When you go to a hearing at Social Security the main question is can you do a job. The judge approaches this question is several steps. The first is whether you can do your old job. If you cannot do the old job, then he asks whether you can do any job. If you can do some job and you are under 50 years of age it means you are not disabled. If you are 50 years of age or older, then depending on the type of job you can do you could still be found disabled.

It is important that the judge understand exactly what your former job required. What lifting was required, what walking, sitting, standing was required. The requirements may put it out your reach based on your current limitations. It also important that your current limitations are defined. In other words will your doctor describe your limitations. Have you had a recent functional capacity evaluation? Are your complaints documented? Such as emergency room visits, witnesses to seizures, symptoms reported in doctors’ notes.

The vocational expert will respond to the judges questions and provide potential jobs you could perform based on your limitations. You must listen to these questions carefully and ask the vocational expert questions that will take into account your limitations as you experience them.

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For those without Health insurance everything is a lot more difficult. Fortunately some Central Illinois communities are providing help for those in need.

In Bloomington, BroMenn Family Health Clinic and the Community Health Clinic help those who are uninsured or underinsured.
In Peoria, Heartland Community Health Clinic is available.
In Champaign, a recent News Gazette article highlights the Champaign County Christian Health Center. A group of local churches with help from businesses provides health care for those who have no insurance.

If any one else knows of other resources in Central Illinois please let me know.

McLean County (Bloomington, Illinois area) has started a prescription discount drug program. It saves on average 20% off the retail price. It targets the uninsured and underinsured.
You can call and request your free card at 877-321-2652 or go to https://naco.advancerx.com.

If you live in Peoria, Springfield or Champaign call the County health department because many counties are participating in the same discount drug program. County health departments can also provide you medical treatment information if you do not have health insurance.

There is a question whether part-time work is worth it while your social security disability case is pending. The rules allow you to earn up to $900 a month while waiting for your hearing. The problem is that the Social Security judge may rule that you are able to work full time and this means you are not disabled.

I realize that many people must work part-time or they will not be able to live. If you find yourself in this situation and you think you can work and you have job that will accomodate your disability, then you can try it. The law allows for work attempts. Some people cannot come close to the $900 limit because they cannot tolerate the hours required. The best approach is to document your limitations, and why you cannot work full time. For example, you could ask your employer or supervisor to write a letter explaining what breaks it gives you that it does for other full time employees, or that you tried working full time and it did not work out. You might ask your doctor to document your limitations and what recommendations she has for your work limits. Above all, remember you will have to explain why you can work part-time but cannot stretch to work full time.

The Federal Budget battles continue and this affects everyone who is applying for Social Security Disability. No budget, then no additional judges to hear cases faster. No budget, then no overtime pay to allow SSA employees to work on more cases. No budget, then no new workers to prepare more cases for hearing.

The Social Security disability case back log continues to make news throughout the country. Radio and television stations have been running stories about disabled people losing their houses and going bankrupt due to the long waiting times for decisions. Any changes are going to be slow, but at least the federal elected officials are aware of the problem and know that they are in the spot light.

It does not hurt to make phone calls and send emails to encourage your congress people and United States Senators to support more money for the Social Security budget.

People often ask if it matters when they file for Social Security Disability.

You should file for Social Security as soon as it appears that you will not be able to work. The reason is that the process takes a long time. Up to three years in certain parts of the country. So the sooner you get started the better. In Central Illinois, I am now representing clients in hearings who filed for a hearing 2 years ago.

Another reason to file quickly is that you can only recover back benefits for one year before your Social Security application date. You want to protect as much of your back benefits as possible. Finally, you are eligible for medicare approximately 30 months from your onset of disability. This is an important benefit that you want to take advantage of as soon as possible.

If you have any questions about filing for your Social Security disability please call me. I cover Peoria, Bloomington, Pontiac, Springfield, Decatur and Champaign, Illinois.