You're injured or suffer from a medical condition or combination of conditions that means you can no longer earn a paycheck and support you and your family. You've decided to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. The process is complicated, time-consuming and filled with difficulties, deadlines and regulations, which is why many people turn to a Chicago Social Security Disability lawyer for help.
Whether you're looking at Illinois disability lawyers to help or not, here's what you can expect.
1. The first step is the application. A disability examiner (through your state's Disability Determination Services office) will review and evaluate the claim and consult with a doctor, making a determination as to whether you are disabled and therefore eligible for SSD benefits. Typically, at this stage there is no personal contact between the applicant and the examiner, and typically, at this stage, well over half of the claims are rejected.
2. If denied, the claimant can request "reconsideration." The claimant has only 60 days from the date of the denial to file for Reconsideration. Another examiner (still within the DDS) will review the file and the claim and issue a decision.
3. If the reconsideration (appeal) is rejected, the claimant can appeal again and request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) with the Social Security Administration. The request for a hearing must be filed with 60 days of being rejected at the Reconsideration stage.
4. If the hearing ruling goes against you, the next step is an appeal (again within 60 days) to the Appeals Council, located in Falls Church, Va. That body reviews the judge's decision. There are no arguments from the applicant or the claimant's attorney or advocate and no new evidence is submitted.
5. The final step is to go outside the Social Security Administration setting and take your case to the federal courts. A United States District court is the first step but potentially the case could be appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
The steps above indicate the complexity of Social Security Disability cases. It is possible to go it alone, but Chicago disability lawyers can help. And typically, consultations are free and there's no fee until you win.