According to the Social Security Administration, $95 billion was paid to people who were disabled due to a work-related injury or illness in 2008. Work-related disability constitutes the largest number of people who are approved for and receive Social Security Disability, and many people in Illinois on disability fit in this category.
Qualifying work-related injuries and illnesses
Some work-related injuries are fairly easy to show as a disability. For example, if a construction worker falls from a scaffold and suffers a traumatic brain injury or permanent paralysis from the neck down, it is obvious that the worker is disabled. However, injuries related to repetition, like carpal tunnel, may be more difficult to prove since the symptoms are not often visible. Physical injuries may heal over time from a work accident but then cause disability later on, such as arthritis, nerve conditions or impact motor ability.
Illnesses present more of a challenge in the qualification process. The SSA accepts a wide range of illnesses as a form of disability, including the following:
- Inflammatory arthritis – can be aggravated by work-related activity
- Lung disease caused by exposure to harmful chemicals
- Cancers caused by exposure to harmful substances
- Respiratory diseases such as asbestosis
- Skin diseases such as burns, dermatitis or infections of the skin
- Lead poisoning
In addition to physical diseases, the SSA also accepts forms of mental illness. For instance, a police officer who experiences a traumatic event and is diagnosed with a severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder may be able to qualify for disability on a temporary or permanent basis. Other forms of work-related mental illness could include anxiety, severe depression and stress-related disorders.
Claiming disability benefits
While the qualification process for SSD benefits does not require applicants to prove that their disability is related to their job, they will need to show that they have a work history in order to qualify. It is also the responsibility of the applicants to show that the disability is a serious one. Workers’ compensation will provide assistance to people during their recovery period, regardless of the type or severity of the injury or illness, but SSD is not set up the same way.
In order to strengthen their chances for approval from the SSA, disabled workers should gather as much information as they can that documents their condition. This includes medical records, statements from co-workers or supervisors, testimony of friends and family on the effects of the condition on the applicant’s daily life, and journals from the applicant that detail the symptoms, challenges and limitations the disability causes them. Applying for disability is not an easy process and people should consider enlisting the assistance of an attorney.