Winter | 2021
As winter approaches we take this time to recognize the closing days of 2021, welcome Holiday Celebrations and hope for a Healthy and Happy 2022 for our clients, families and friends.

In this Edition of the KF Newsletter, we spotlight David M. Barish, an accomplished workers' compensation attorney and the lead attorney of KF's Social Security Practice. KF is proud to announce that David has been recognized and asked by the IL Trial Lawyers Association to author a chapter instructing other lawyers on how to succeed before the Social Security Administration. 

Congratulations, David!

David shares the spotlight with KF's top notch Social Security team: Ms. Jonah J. Barajas and Ms. Cheryl Bernard. Jonah and Cheryl guide our clients through the challenging forms, technology, and procedures of the Social Security Administration that can be overwhelming to many.

Also in this Edition, why everyone should have an on-line Social Security Account.

And finally, delicious recipes from the KF staff.

All the best to you and yours.
Spotlight on Paralegal Jonah Barajas
I started at Katz Friedman in 2016 as a Workers’ Compensation paralegal. Within a few months I began translating for Spanish speaking clients whose Social Security claims were being handled by our office. As I began learning more about the Social Security programs, I integrated into the Social Security department at Katz Friedman.


During my years at Katz Friedman, I’ve learned that listening to our clients is most important in trying to get the best outcome for our clients. Social Security bases most of its decision through medical records; however, I feel that many of our clients’ hardships are not well depicted within these records. I have spent much of time at Katz Friedman speaking and listening to our clients describe their struggles and medical history that has in the end led them to be unable to work. I strongly believe that learning our client’s background is the compass that helps me do a better job in understating and finding the strength of each claim.


For our Social Security department, I work on files that are at an initial application level, request for reconsideration or hearing level. When we are on a case that is at the initial application level, I guide our client through the online application process. The online application can seem overwhelming based on the number of questions and information needed however our office ensures that all information is gathered and ready to submit. In order to prevent any delays in submitting the Social Security Disability application I request a doctor and work history list from our client. The doctor list should contain information such as first and last treatment date, the facility, hospital and doctor name and conditions being treated. Social Security will ask for a work history for the past 15 years that includes the dates worked, wages and job duties. Once I have this information along with the client’s basic demographics I will file an online application, send signed attorney retainers along with any records in our possession. Once the application is processed, Social Security will request a complete Work History packet (Form SSA-3369) and an Adult Function Report Packet (From SSA-3373). These packets are filled with a few repetitive questions and can take a very long time for an individual to complete. Many times, people choose not to complete these forms based on the amount of details each question asks; however, not completing these forms can cause a negative outcome to a claim. Our office ensures that these packets are completed with the client, mailed and faxed to the Social Security office.

Fighting for you

If our client is denied at the initial application, we have 60 days to file an appeal. I will ensure that reminders are set to file this appeal in a timely manner. If we decide to appeal, I will then file a Request for Reconsideration with Social Security. These reconsiderations can typically be done online although some cases do require that we send in the SSA Form-561 Request for Reconsideration. After I have filed the appeal, I will contact our client and update the doctor list with recent medical treatment.

Once a case is denied the second time around, we have 60 days to file a Request for Hearing. At this point many people become frustrated and lose hope. However, at this stage in a claim our office will work even harder and apply a strategy to move forward with our client’s claim. For example, I will pull and upload any current records along with submitting a request for hearing. The next step I take after filing the request for hearing is to download our client’s electronic file, review and list the records that are within that file. I will then contact the providers and request the missing records. Once the records are obtained, I will upload them online into the electronic file. If I don’t receive records 10 days prior to the hearing date I will submit a letter to the judge requesting an extension to submit any additional evidence into the file. Individuals can become nervous when we are coming closer to the hearing date.

Our disability attorneys will prepare our client and explain what will be expected at the time of the hearing. I will assist in translating during the hearing preparations if needed and will continue to answer any questions a client may have after the hearing preparation in order to help our client feel more confident and at ease before the time of the hearing.
Spotlight on Paralegal Cheryl Bernard
I started my journey at Katz Friedman in 2008 as a Workers’ Compensation paralegal and Bill Work Up clerk. I also began to work on the Social Security cases. At the time, the Social Security Administration was transitioning from paper documents to a more online computer-based system. I had to learn that system and help tweak our in-house Social Security Database to fit in with Social Security’s changes. I also became responsible for setting up our attorneys for online access to the SSA E file system and user page.
I am responsible for assisting clients at the Initial and Reconsideration levels. I Conduct initial interviews, submit applications, and work closely with the clients’ state disability determination services office to collect medical records/ doctor information and work history information.

Navigating the Web

I am responsible for filing the online appeals. Through the past 10 years the online appeal system has changed drastically, and we have been here to learn about it every step of the way. Initially, the appeal consisted of simply a few screens asking for a name, social security number birthday and the reason for an appeal. Now they are a little bit more in depth due to online security changes and the pandemic. Records, and other forms of evidence can be submitted online along with our representative forms. There are more security protocols that protect our clients’ information but also require us to be more careful with online submissions.
Files are much more accessible. In the past our attorneys may not have all of the information that Social Security had in its file until the day of the in-person hearing. We now have the ability to see these files almost in real time. At the lower levels we can see the medical records that the government has obtained. At the hearing level we can see everything from a copy of the initial application to the actual requests that were sent out to their doctors. This has been an immense help since the offices are still closed to the public and it makes it easier for us to actually “work up” a file and get our attorneys prepared to represent our clients. The paralegals are responsible for downloading the SSA file prior to hearing and submitting medical records and/or correspondence to the judges. In the event a second hearing is set or an appeal at that level is needed we are also responsible for downloading the official audio file of a hearing. 
Planning for your future 

I also like to consider myself a “closer.” Once the heavy work is done at the hearing level and a case is won, I usually will do last minute checks and tie up loose to make sure everything is in order for our clients’ future. For our clients receiving SSDI, this usually entails confirming that they are aware of their monthly pay schedule and Medicare eligibility. Our clients may be responsible for repaying long term disability carriers or may need to report workers’ compensation payments to Social Security. I help them with these issues. I advise our clients who are awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI) about their back pay rollout schedules and applying for Medicaid through their respective state. When it comes to both the SSI and SSDI benefit programs one of the last things I also do is have a brief discussion on their reporting duties if they begin working a small job.
Before finally closing out a file I also like to do one last “self Help” talk. One thing that a lot of people do not know is that once you begin receiving Social Security benefits a lot of other assistance programs are now open to those in need. For example, Illinois has the Benefit Access program, which allows for free public transit cards across the state, discounted Driver’s License or Id Cards and discounted registration cards. People can only apply once they are sixty-five or approved for Social Security benefits. I cannot apply for these benefits for clients, but I can point the clients in the right direction on utility assistance, food assistance, and other social programs that will benefit them. Our end goal is to help plan for the future in any way we can and usually this includes making sure our clients can see 5-10 years down the road.
Gingerbread Thumbprint Cookies with Dulce de Leche
Grandma's Chocolate Drop Cookies

Prep Time: 30 mins | Total Time: 1 hour


  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 6 tbsp. salted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. dark molasses 
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tbsp. dulce de leche or caramel sauce

Prep Time 20 mins | Total Time: 40 mins


  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 3/4 cups flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Chocolate Frosting

Planning for Your Future is easier with an online Social Security Account

Did you know that signing up for a free and secure my Social Security account provides personalized tools for everyone, whether you receive benefits or not? You can use your account to request a replacement Social Security card, check the status of an application, estimate future benefits, or manage the benefits you already receive? Since Social Security closures began in March 2020, the Social Security Administration has taken steps to provide a majority of information online.

Navigating the Social Security process and the website in general can be tricky but it doesn’t have to be impossible. To make sure you are equipped to do that and overcome all the minor challenges associated with getting information from the Social Security Administration contact our experienced team. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or visit our website.