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Illinois disability benefits

How to Qualify for Disability Benefits in Illinois

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
May 22, 2024  ·  1 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard-trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience and has helped over 50,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

If you live in Illinois and cannot work due to illness or injury, you may qualify for disability benefits. Like most states, Illinois does not offer a state-specific disability program. However, you can still receive assistance through two Social Security Administration (SSA) programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both provide financial support and, in some cases, health insurance.

Learn more about the benefit programs available in Illinois and what you need to qualify.


How to qualify for disability benefits in Illinois

Qualifying for disability benefits in Illinois involves a five-step SSA evaluation to determine your work capability. Here are the steps involved:

  1. Substantial gainful activity (SGA): First, SSA assesses if you had substantial gainful activity by looking at your earnings and work activity level. In 2024, SSA will consider non-blind individuals capable of SGA if they earned more than $1,550 a month. Those who exceed that number may not qualify for disability benefits. 

  2. Severity of impairment: Your impairment must be severe enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work activities. To qualify, the impairment must be expected to last at least 12 months.

  3. Meeting or equaling a listed impairment: The SSA’s Blue Book lists various medical conditions considered severe enough to prevent an individual from sustaining SGA. If the list includes your condition, you are closer to qualifying. If it isn’t you’ll need to provide additional medical evidence to prove your condition restricts your ability to work.

  4. Past work: At this step, the SSA determines whether you can perform any work you have done in the last 15 years with your current medical condition.

  5. Ability to adjust to other work: If you cannot do the work you previously did, the SSA then considers whether there’s any other type of work you could do. They take into account your medical conditions, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills you might have.

We've helped 5,814 people in Illinois apply for benefits.

What qualifies as a disability in Illinois?

Any medical condition can qualify for Social Security disability benefits, provided it significantly impairs your ability to work. The SSA uses a "Listing of Impairments," commonly called the Blue Book, which categorizes qualifying conditions. These include, but are not limited to musculoskeletal problems, cardiovascular conditions, senses and speech issues, respiratory illnesses, neurological disorders, mental health disorders,  immune system disorders, and various syndromes. 


What are the most approved disabilities in Illinois?

According to the SSA, the most frequently approved disabilities in Illinois are:

  • Mental disorders (37%): Includes depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions.

  • Musculoskeletal system and connective tissue disorders (26%): Includes issues like back injuries and arthritis.

  • Nervous system and sense organs disorders (11%): Includes a range of conditions from epilepsy to severe vision and hearing loss.

  • Circulatory system disorders (7%): Such as chronic heart failure and peripheral vascular disease.


Can you work while on disability in Illinois?

You may work while on disability in Illinois, but there are specific rules to follow. Here’s a look at what the Social Security Administration (SSA) allows:

Trial work period

Illinoisans receiving disability benefits can participate in a trial work period, allowing them to work for nine months while still receiving full disability benefits. The amount you earn does not matter, as long as you report your work and continue to have a disabling impairment. This nine-month period does not need to be consecutive, allowing you to test your capacity to work over time.

What happens after the trial work period?

After you complete the nine-month trial work period, you enter a 36-month extended period of eligibility. During this time, you can still receive benefits for any month your earnings are not "substantial." In 2024, you cross into substantial earnings if you make more than $1,550 per month.

This system provides a safety net while you explore your ability to work without immediate financial repercussions.


Do I need a disability lawyer in Illinois?

While the SSA does not require legal representation to apply for disability benefits, having one greatly increases your chances for approval. Here’s how a disability lawyer can make a difference:

  1. Streamline the paperwork: The application process involves a lot of paperwork, which can be overwhelming. A lawyer helps ensure your application is not only complete but that it accurately reflects your situation.

  2. Facilitate communication: Disability lawyers communicate with the SSA on your behalf. They make certain all correspondence is clear, professional, and timely.

  3. Enhance your chance of success: Statistics show that legal counsel can triple the rate of success for disability claims. Disability lawyers understand the intricacies of the process and can effectively argue your case.

  4. Advocate for your rights: A disability attorney is your advocate through the application and appeals process. They protect your rights and interests and ensure you receive the fair consideration you deserve.

Get matched with a top disability lawyer in Illinois.

SSA offices in Illinois

Applying for disability benefits can sometimes feel daunting. If you need face-to-face support or prefer to apply in person, visit your local SSA field office.

Alton

501 Belle St Rm 103 Federal Bldg

Alton, IL 62002

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (855) 285-6006

Fax Number: (833) 950-3115

Aurora

1325 N Lake St 

Aurora, IL 60506

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 274-5412

Fax Number: (833) 950-3109

Belleville

1670 Lebanon Ave Lake Christine Center

Belleville, IL 62221

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 405-0471

Fax Number: (833) 580-0167

Bloomingdale

230 West Lake St 

Bloomingdale, IL 60108

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 845-1577

Fax Number: (833) 950-3451

Bloomington

207 N Williamsburg Dr

Bloomington, IL 61704

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 405-4640

Fax Number: (833) 950-3107

Carbondale

250 W Cherry St Rm 104

Carbondale, IL 62901

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 714-0377

Fax Number: (833) 950-3441

Champaign

101 S Country Fair Dr 

Champaign, IL 61821

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 819-2593

Fax Number: (833) 950-2810

Chicago

2127 W Lawrence Ave 

Chicago, IL 60625

Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM

Phone Number: (877) 409-8426

Fax Number: (833) 950-2806

See all SSA offices in Illinois


Frequently asked questions about benefits in Illinois

How do I qualify for disability in Illinois?

To qualify for disability you need to have a condition that prevents you from working for at least a year. You’ll also need to meet certain work history requirements (for SSDI) or be within certain income limits (for SSI). For more on these requirements, read our full write up here.

What conditions qualify for disability in Illinois?

Any condition that will prevent you from working for a year or more can qualify for disability benefits. Some of the most common conditions include musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, nervous system diseases, and circulatory system diseases. See our full list of conditions that qualify here.

How long does it take to get approved for disability in Illinois?

It takes an average of 6.1 months to get an initial disability decision in Illinois. Most people who apply are initially rejected, and need to appeal this decision. If you appeal and go to a hearing, the process takes around two years on average. Read more: How Long It Takes to Get Approved for Disability Benefits

How much does disability pay in Illinois?

The average SSDI payment in Illinois is $1,413.31 per month. The average SSI payment is $651.63 per month. What you’ll earn is dependent on your income, or the amount you’ve historically paid into the Social Security program. Read more on what amount you can expect.

How should I prepare my disability application in Illinois?

Answer the application questions truthfully, consistently, and succinctly. You should also ensure that you gather and submit all your medical records with your application. The SSA paperwork can be complicated, so our legal team has written a full guide to the application here.

Does Illinois have a state disability program?

No, Illinois doesn't have a state disability program. Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) have a state program. Residents of Illinois can apply for federal disability programs (SSDI and SSI). Read more about SSDI and SSI here.

Related resources:

Illinois Disability Benefits

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By Jackie Jakab

SSA Offices in Illinois

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By Jackie Jakab

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How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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