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Social Security Disability

Who We Help

Uptown People’s Law Center represents disabled, formerly imprisoned adults in the metropolitan Chicago area who are seeking Social Security disability benefits. Due to our class action lawsuits against the Illinois Department of Corrections about medical and mental health care, we are uniquely qualified to assist former prisoners applying for Social Security disability benefits.

How We Help

UPLC advocates for clients at the initial application, reconsideration and hearing levels. Our staff will ensure the Social Security Administration has all necessary information in order to make their determination, including your complete medical record.

The Application Process: 

  1. At the application and reconsideration level, we will guide you through the process, keeping track of your deadlines and assisting you in the completion of the Administration’s many forms.
  2. If your case reaches the hearing level, our staff will obtain any additional evidence, review your complete medical record, and write a memorandum for the judge detailing your health problems and why you cannot work.
  3. We will prepare you for the hearing, including advising you what to expect and go over your testimony.
  4. At the hearing, your representative will be prepared to cross-examine the medical and/or vocational experts, advise the judge of applicable law and cite to your medical records.
  5. Our staff will follow up on your case and provide an exit interview to discuss our work throughout the process.

To be eligible for SSI/SSDI, you must:

  • Have a diagnosed serious medical or psychiatric condition that is expected to last at least one year, OR be at least 65 years old
  • Be unable to work due to your diagnosed condition/s
  • Be receiving active and ongoing treatment for your condition/s for your best chance to be approved for SSI/SSDI benefits

Interested in applying? Apply online at ssa.gov/apply, or visit your local Social Security office to start an application.

Social Security disability benefits are long-term benefits that can take over a year to be approved. 

Prison In-Reach:

UPLC helps disabled people who need Social Security who are six to eight months away from release from prison. We currently work with people inside Dixon prison, Logan prison, and Joliet Treatment Center. If you have a loved one inside these prisons who needs Social Security disability benefits when they get out, and is less than a year from their release date, please have them write us a letter. Getting started on their case sooner helps them get benefits earlier than they would otherwise.

Does Social Security Claim You Owe Them Money?

This is called an “Overpayment.” An overpayment is when Social Security Administration (SSA) believes they have overpaid you, and therefore you owe them money back.

What causes an overpayment?

The #1 cause of an overpayment is that people don’t know what to report to SSA. It is extremely important that you report any and all changes to your income and assets to Social Security immediately.

How does SSA collect an overpayment?

SSA will take 100% of SSDI monthly payments and 10% of SSI monthly payments until the overpayment balance is paid.

Can I work while receiving disability benefits?

You can work part-time, receive benefits, and still be considered disabled by SSA.

In 2024, if you earn more than $1,550 per month at work, your benefits will be discontinued.

If you are receiving SSI, you need to report your wages each month to SSA. For every month you earn more than $1,550 or have under-reported your income while receiving benefits, Social Security may ask for the money back.

How to avoid an overpayment:

You must report any changes in your income, living situation, or marital status to Social Security as soon as they occur!

You can report these changes to SSA several different ways:

  • Online: You can use an online wage reporting tool through your mySocialSecurity account. Visit ssa.gov/myaccount to learn more.
  • By Phone: If you receive SSI, you may be able to report your monthly wages by phone. Contact your local Social Security office to enroll.
  • Mobile App: If you receive SSI, you can download the SSI Wage Reporting app onto your smartphone.
  • Mail/In Person: You can mail or bring in copies of your pay stubs to your local Social Security office.

How to dispute an overpayment:

  • Appeal: If you think SSA did not calculate your earnings correctly.
  • Waiver: If the overpayment did occur, but it was not your fault and you cannot afford to pay it back. 
  • Change in Recovery Rate: If the overpayment is correct and was your fault, but you cannot afford to pay it back at SSA’s rate of collection.

How to file a waiver:

You can file a waiver when there is a legitimate overpayment, but it was not your fault and you cannot afford 
to pay it back. There is no time limit for filing a waiver.

For example:

  • I started a job while I was receiving benefits, and I reported my income to the local Social Security office. Social Security should have known to stop my check. I can barely make ends meet with my monthly $1,100 SSDI check.
  • When my mother died, I was to inherit $4,000. I called the local Social Security office and asked if that inheritance would stop my SSI check. I was told that I could still get my SSI check if I inherited that money. The Social Security worker told me the wrong thing, so the overpayment is not my fault.

To file a waiver, fill out a Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery and mail, fax, bring the completed form to your local Social Security office.

How to file an appeal:

You can file an appeal when an overpayment is incorrect. You have 60 days from the notice of your overpayment to file an appeal.

For example:

  • There are earnings related to my Social Security number during the time I was receiving benefits. But I didn’t earn that money. Someone else was using my Social Security number.
  • Social Security says I had more than $2,000 in the bank for 10 months while I received SSI. But my bank statement shows that I only had that money for six of those ten months.

To file an appeal, you can request a reconsideration from Social Security online or at your local office.

Be sure to bring the following documents:

  • Your notice of overpayment
  • Records of your monthly expenses
  • Proof of your income
  • Bank statements for the period of overpayment

For More Information

For additional information on our services, please check out our Frequently Asked Questions page, or give us a call at 773-769-1411. Please note that UPLC does not represent individuals in criminal cases. 

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