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June 2023 – CCHCC’s Disability Application Services Program is up and running– please support CCHCC!

June 2023

En Español: Esta es una carta solicitando una donación para el trabajo que hace CCHCC. Si tiene preguntas sobre esta carta, o para mas información sobre donando a CCHCC, llame a (217) 352-6533 y pregunte por Chris o Adani.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) is excited to let you know that our newly-created Disability Application Services Program is up and running!

CCHCC has had a vision for this program for many years because we know how difficult it is for individuals to work through the disability application process on their own. Applying for disability through the Social Security Administration is a truly brutal and baffling process, and all too often, people who need disability benefits tend to “give up” and are unable to get through the application process on their own. Research shows that people who have ”advocates” helping them with disability applications are far more likely to be approved for benefits.

CCHCC’s new staff members are already helping many community members apply for disability benefits! CCHCC is pleased to announce that Vivian Adams and Shea Belahi are our amazing Disability Application Specialists. Vivian also serves as the Coordinator of our Disability Application Services Program. Both Vivian and Shea are kind, compassionate, and highly skilled. We are so excited to have them on staff at CCHCC and joining Paulette Colemon and myself on the Disability Team. In July, we will also welcome Babatunde Amao to CCHCC as another Disability Application Specialist.

People who have disabling conditions that limit their ability to work and carry out activities of daily living, are also often suffering from poverty and struggling to make ends meet. CCHCC is uniquely situated to help individuals in this position because, not only can we help them apply for disability benefits, we can also help them apply for other benefits such as SNAP (food stamps), health insurance, energy assistance, free phones, and more.

What is “disability”, as a benefit? “Disability” as a benefit refers to the income supports programs that provide beneficiaries with monthly income, made available by State and Federal governments:

SSDI – Social Security Disability Income is available to individuals who have had paychecks and worked enough quarters. SSDI is paid through the Social Security Administration (SSA), and can be considered a form of early retirement due to disability. Benefit amount is based on earnings history.

SSI – Supplemental Security Income is a means-tested program for low- or no-income individuals (federal/state partnership). The benefit amount in 2023 in Illinois is $914 per month.

Besides monthly income, there are other benefits as a result of qualifying for SSDI or SSI: When someone qualifies for “disability” – whether SSDI, SSI, or both, they also become eligible for many more benefits and resources on the basis of having been deemed “disabled”. Benefits can include access to subsidized housing, LIHEAP (energy assistance), free phones, free or reduced cost transportation, tax breaks on home property taxes, etc. Therefore, qualifying for “disability” can lead to even more benefits and more affordable living and economic stability. SSDI beneficiaries can start receiving Medicare coverage after a 24 month “waiting period”.

But applying for “disability” is notoriously difficult. The application process is time-consuming, tedious, and requires incredible attention to detail and the ability to respond in a timely manner. In fact, the people who are most in need of “disability” benefits are often the people who are least able to navigate the complex and tedious application system. Consistent and ongoing medical documentation is essential. Technological capacity is very helpful.

Applying for “disability” can take months, or even years. In Illinois, the Disability application denial rate is 71.1%. If one’s application is denied, one can file appeals. Approval rates increase significantly at each level of the appeals process, but this can take years.

Also, attorneys do not help with initial applications. However, they can assist with appeals, and then they will be paid out of the client’s “lump sum payment”, once (and if) the client is approved.

CCHCC is the only organization in Champaign County to provide disability application assistance services to any community members who need this help. And we are the only organization that simultaneously helps with health care navigation and documentation for disability. CCHCC’s services are provided free of charge. And, CCHCC’s program is “conflict-free” – meaning that CCHCC serves clients regardless of whether or not they are an established client with CCHCC, or who their healthcare providers or other service providers are, or if they do not yet have health care providers. CCHCC is the only organization in the county that makes these services available to county residents at large.

CCHCC works with clients who are at various stages of the disability application process – some clients need help with submitting an initial application, while others come to CCHCC needing help with an appeal, and many are simply unsure where in the process their disability case is. CCHCC helps clients at all stages of the disability application process.

You can help! Please consider making a contribution to help support CCHCC’s Disability Application Services Program. Besides financial contributions, you can also help by spreading the word about our programs and work, and directing people in need to our organization.


Thank you for your support! We appreciate your financial support for our services. Together, we are building a stronger, healthier community for all!


Claudia Lennhoff
Executive Director
Champaign County Health Care Consumers