Although many decide to file alone, without the assistance of an attorney or disability advocate, having help from the start can potentially improve your chances of getting an approval from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Legal Help at the First Review and Reconsideration Stages
The disability review process goes through multiple stages for many applications. The first review takes place after you fill out and submit your application. If you’re found ineligible at this stage, you can request a reconsideration.
During a reconsideration, the SSA will take a second look, and you can submit new and additional evidence supporting your claim.
At these stages, the disability review mostly entails the completion of paperwork and the submission of medical records and other information. You may also be asked to attend consultative, medical exams.
Many applicants decide to tackle these steps on their own, rather than seeking help from an attorney or advocate. An advocate or attorney that aggressively works to gather essential evidence for proving disability may be able to improve the chances though. This is especially true if your medical condition doesn’t precisely match a listed disability or if you must be approved for benefits through a residual functional capacity evaluation.
Help from Other Sources
It’s important to note that you don’t have to have an attorney or Social Security advocate at any stage of the disability review. You can choose to go through the entire process independently, or you can seek assistance from a friend, family member, or a social worker, for example.
Filing Appeals with the Help of an Attorney
If you’re denied benefits at the first review and reconsideration stages, you’ll have the chance to file an appeal. An appeal hearing will be required and you’ll have to appear before an administrative law judge that will review your case and make a determination on your eligibility for disability benefits. An attorney can help prepare you for the appeal hearing and can assist in collecting expert testimony and other additional evidence of your disability.
If denied at the appeal hearing, you can continue to pursue your claim for benefit, though most attorneys advise against this. This is because the next two appeals stages (the Appeals Council Review and Federal Court appeal) can take years and rarely result in approvals.
Risk Free Consultations and Legal Help with Disability Claims
Disability attorneys often offer an initial consultation, free of charge, which makes looking into legal assistance a risk-free prospect for you. Lawyers who handle disability cases additionally work on contingency, which means they only get paid if you win your disability case.
The fees an attorney charges will be communicated up front, so you’ll know what kind of costs you’ll incur. The SSA also sets limits on what an attorney can charge when working with disability applicants, with an established fee of no more than 25 percent of any back pay you receive when you’re approved for benefits.