Need info on benefits for newly unemployed, disabled Chicagoan
June 12, 2013 8:15 AM   Subscribe

A dear friend of mine has gone through a brain injury which has rendered him unable to work in his field for an uncertain amount of time. I'm trying to run down any benefits he might be eligible for so he can keep it together until he recovers.

This person is an IT professional (system administrator) who, in addition to being a cancer survivor needing daily meds, is now suffering from short-term memory loss, and occasional aphasia and seizures due to a brain bleed which required surgical repair. The surgery is now a few months past, but he's still having a lot of trouble and just lost his job because of it, so now he has no income and no medical coverage. He lives in Chicago, IL.

I've found this excellent previous AskMe and, from that, sent him to NeedyMeds and the Cook County NaCo prescription card. He's not near a WalMart and can't drive because of the seizures, and he lives on the far south side where transit is kind of a haul, but I'm hoping those can help keep him in his required meds.

I'm trying to figure out the situation about unemployment and any disability benefits, so we know what his income situation will be. He was let go from his job, which he had just accepted immediately before he had to go in for emergency surgery, because while they were very accommodating of the situation initially, he couldn't do the job afterwards -- couldn't perform to their requirements or do the sort of logical processing that system administration requires. I'm uncertain on whether or not that means he's eligible for unemployment. Is that fired for cause or through no fault of his own?

The only other benefit I can think of is Social Security disability, but it looks like that is only for permanent disability, and we just don't know if this is permanent or not yet. I'm also uncertain about the "can you adjust to other employment" requirement -- what's the determination there? Worst case scenario, does it count as employment if his memory never recovers but he could, say, detassel corn in the summertime or something? (Because temporary unskilled labor is not real "employment" to me, but I could see it counting to a bureaucrat.) And, assuming it's not permanent disability, is there anything available in the interim while the brain settles itself down into whatever its end state is going to be?

On top of everything, he's thoroughly stressed out and depressed about the entire thing, the possibility of having lost his career and having limited options. I've given him the info for Community Counseling Centers of Chicago, thinking that maybe talking to someone outside his friends/family network might help with some of the anxiety and strain. Not sure if there are other city/county resources available here.

I've never had to deal with any of this stuff before, so my question (though lengthy and vague) is this: what benefits programs are available to a newly disabled Illinoisan? Can he get unemployment or Social Security disability? What's the starting point for him, or is there someone at Cook County who knows all the answers?
posted by sldownard to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Apply for SSI, you want to be on Federal Government Benefits. There are provisions for going off benefits if you're able to work in the future.

Permanant disability doesn't mean 'will always be disabled' it means "not short term disability."

Don't exclude yourself based on your own perception. You go down to SSI (make an apointment) and a person there will go through everything with your friend.

I have two friends on SSI and it's been a godsend.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:32 AM on June 12, 2013

Best answer: Health and Disability Advocates
205 W. Randolph St., Suite 510, Chicago, IL 60606
Email: | Phone: 312-223-9600 | TTY: 866-584-8750 | Fax: 312-223-9518

HDA is probably going to be the best place for him to start. These others that follow may or may not be useful resources:

CountyCare - Cook Co got an early expansion of Medicaid (part of the ACA.) There are income/age/residency requirements but he should check it out anyway. Call 312.864.8200 or 1.855.444.1661 to apply over the phone or to find a FQHC near you. Call center is open M-F 8AM-8PM, Sat 9AM-2PM.

Medicare Hotline: 312.353.7126

IL Dept of Human Services: 800.843.6154 or

MeMail me if none of these work. Good luck to your friend.
posted by deliciae at 9:07 AM on June 12, 2013

Definitely, definitely apply for SSI. He's been paying into it for years with his FICA taxes, this is exactly the kind of situation it was designed for.
posted by Oktober at 9:41 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just nthing the suggestion to apply for SSI. Just because he could do something doesn't mean he won't qualify for it. Reading about it scared my partner away from it too, and that was a mistake when we finally broke down and did it, as it appears he will qualify for more and for longer than he realized.

And anyway, let them decide for him that he doesn't qualify though based on my recent experience with it, it sounds like they won't. This is why we pay taxes.

It's not an easy process and not a quick process, but it is something. And despite everything I had been told, those on the other end for the government have been, at least in the Chicago/Illinois office, a... whatever the opposite of 'bureaucratic nightmare' is. Helpful, pleasant, comforting, and more. (When the checks actually start coming, I'll give it a complete four star review, but everything about the application process -- except for the application length -- has been far better than expected.)

If there's anything specific you think I might be able to answer, please reach out to me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:29 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

He may be denied SSI disability; re-apply. Your friend is very lucky to have someone helping.
posted by theora55 at 10:30 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: SSDI is for people who have worked and have a disability that is expected to last at least 12 months. Read more here.

Disability based SSI is usually for low income people who haven't worked enough to get SSDI. If you have worked some but not a lot, sometimes people get a low SSDI payment and can supplement with SSI.

The government social security website explains everything pretty well, I think - lots of FAQs and it's not in legal language.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:12 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone... I didn't even know SSI existed, so this is really incredibly helpful. And it sounds like a key element here is persistence, so we'll just keep trying until we can get him settled in and get some quality recovery time. Here's hoping it all goes smoothly.
posted by sldownard at 5:58 AM on June 14, 2013

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