Filing for Social Security Disability benefits can be a complicated and confusing process. Most applicants don’t know how to fill out the necessary paperwork and submit the correct medical documentation. This is a primary reason why over 65% of disability claims are originally denied.
While you don’t technically need an attorney to represent you during the application process, hiring one can improve your chances of a successful claim. Statistics have shown that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is more likely to approve someone who is represented by an attorney.
Ways Your Attorney Can Improve Your Chances
Social Security Disability attorneys understand the application process. They know how to present your case in a way that makes your disability obvious and not a matter of conjecture, and can assist you in obtaining the necessary medical documentation from your doctor and the hospitals where you received treatment. A lawyer can help you understand the Blue Book listing and make sure you meet the criteria. The risk of your claim being rejected due to insufficient medical proof of disability is greatly reduced.
Once your application is submitted, your attorney will check in with the SSA on your behalf and give you updates as they become available.
Representing You at Appeals
If your original claim is denied, your attorney will represent you at any necessary appeals, such as reconsideration and hearing proceedings. He or she can collect and submit key medical evidence, communicate with your doctor and any other medical professionals who have treated you, and prepare you for any questions that the administrative law judge may ask. They may also be able to move your case forward more quickly, especially if you are in dire financial need or your condition is terminal.
At the hearing, your attorney will guide your testimony so that the judge has a proper understanding of how your disability has impacted your ability to work. If appearing at a hearing is impossible given your condition, your attorney can request an OTR (on the record) decision from the judge, making it possible for your claim to be approved without a hearing.
Hiring an Attorney-The Real Cost
You may acknowledge that a Social Security disability attorney can help your case, but hesitate due to worry over the cost. Lawyers are expensive, aren’t they? If your financial situation is such that you need to apply for disability benefits to make ends meet, how can you afford an attorney’s fees?
The good news is that you will not need to pay for an attorney upfront. Social Security disability attorneys are compensated by receiving up to 25% of your disability back payments, to a maximum of $6,000. The SSA takes the attorney’s percentage of the back payments and sends it directly to him or her, so you don’t have to worry about calculating and remitting.
Whether you are applying for Social Security disability benefits for the first time or appealing a recently received denial, hiring a Social Security attorney will maximize your chances of ultimately being successful with your disability claim.
If you are getting ready to apply for disability benefits, you are probably aware of the importance of detailed documentation and hard medical evidence. A disability attorney will be able to review the details of your claim and will read through your medical records to determine if you would qualify for disability benefits.
Studies have shown that claimants who are represented by a lawyer are three times more likely to have their disability claim approved and be awarded disability benefits. An attorney will take the case on a contingency basis, so you will not have to pay anything out of pocket. If you talk with a lawyer, even before you apply for benefits, you can make sure that you have everything in order much more quickly.
While many claims have to advance all the way to the hearing level to be approved, there are some that can be resolved more quickly if they have the supporting evidence and documentation that is needed to prove that you are disabled and can not work and earn enough to qualify as substantial gainful activity (SGA).
Most disability claims are denied. When your claim is denied, you will be sent a notice of denial. That notice will explain why your claim was denied and/or what evidence was lacking. Your disability lawyer will be able to review that denial notice and determine what needs to be provided to get your claim approved.
Your lawyer will file a request for reconsideration within the specified timeframe before time runs out. Based on the notice, your lawyer will know what evidence is lacking. Your attorney will know what kind of evidence is needed to help you get your claim approved. Your lawyer will gather the documentation that he or she believes will help you get your claim approved. However, claims are often denied on the reconsideration level as well. At that point, you will file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Your chances of having your claim approved increase greatly when your claim reaches the hearing level. When you go to the hearing level, a judge will determine if you meet the criteria to receive disability benefits. At the hearing, you will be questioned by the judge, and a vocational expert and/or medical expert will most likely be in attendance to review the details and report back to the judge.
Your attorney will be able to prepare you for the questioning process at the hearing, so you can promptly and properly respond to the questions. Your lawyer will also be able to organize your evidence file and gather any missing pieces that will help the judge make a favorable judgment. With the guidance of a disability lawyer, you are going to be better prepared for a successful disability hearing.
By understanding the processes, the procedures, and what the judge is needing to know, you will be able to more accurately respond, and you will know how to prepare for your hearing. Some hearings are held in person and others are through a video conference, so your lawyer will be able to help you know what to expect and what you will need to do before the hearing and during the hearing. A disability hearing should be taken seriously, as it is your best chance to get a claim approved.
Experienced With Disability Claims
Disability claims can be challenging. Studies have proven that claimants who are represented by a disability lawyer are three times more likely to have your claims approved. Lawyers are familiar with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the disability claims process. They understand what Disability Determination Services (DDS) is looking for, so they can make sure you have the right evidence included in your review file.
Your lawyer will be able to maintain contact with the SSA and make sure that they have all the details that they need to properly review your claim and make an appropriate decision. They also know what other supporting evidence can be helpful to your disability claim, such as statements from former coworkers and supervisors. Your lawyer will also be able to help you get witnesses that can testify on your behalf during the disability hearing.
Without a lawyer, your odds of a successful hearing can decrease significantly. You may not know what to expect, so you will be unprepared and you will be nervous, not knowing how to respond to the questions and not understanding the details that the court is needing can be damaging to the outcome of your disability claim.
What Are Contingency Fees?
Social Security Disability attorneys take cases on the contingency basis. That means that they will not be paid until you win your case and you are approved for disability benefits. This way, you can retain a lawyer without having to pay anything upfront or out-of-pocket. If you are disabled, you will not be bringing in a regular paycheck. Coming up with money to cover basic expenses can be challenging while you wait for your claim to be approved.
It can take several months for a disability claim to be won and for you to start receiving disability benefits. If you must pay a lawyer upfront, you most likely will not be able to pay the fees. By an attorney taking your case on a contingency basis, you are going to have legal representation. Claimants who have an attorney representing them are much more likely to have their claim approved and be awarded disability benefits. There are restrictions for the fees that an attorney who handles a case on a contingency basis can receive.
The maximum amount a disability lawyer can charge is 25 percent of your backpay. The maximum an attorney can receive from your backpay is $6,000. As an example, if your backpay is $12,000, your attorney will receive $3,000 and you will receive the remaining $9,000.
Your attorney can advance you the expenses associated with your case. There could be costs associated with obtaining your medical records, which are needed for a disability claim. Those costs must be reimbursed in addition to the lawyer’s contingency fees. Your lawyer will go over these details when you retain their services and sign the agreement.
What Questions Should I Ask My Disability Lawyer?
When you are enlisting the help of a Social Security Disability attorney, you should ask your lawyer a few questions. You will want to make sure he or she has the proper qualifications and that he or she is prepared to handle your claim and help you get approved for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Basically, it could be considered as interviewing an attorney for the job of representing you through the claims process.
Here are some common questions you should ask an attorney, and they should be able to provide you with the information that you need to make an informed decision about their services:
What do we need to prove to get approved for Social Security Disability benefits? Your attorney should be able to go over your medical conditions and compare your condition with the Blue Book. At this point, the attorney will know what criteria must be met, the best way to approach your case, and what additional evidence is needed to support your claim and get you approved for disability benefits.
You will need to prove that you are not able to work and earn a living, that you have at least one severe medical condition, and that your medical limitations keep you from doing the work that you have done during the last 15 years ago.
How much experience do you have in handling these cases? You want to know how long your lawyer has represented claimants in disability cases. You will also want to know the approach that they have found most effective. Ask how many clients they have represented, their success rate, and the average length of time for having a claim approved.
How do you handle the appeals process? If the claim is denied, when and how do they appeal denials. What experience do they have in pursuing an appeal and getting a claim approved? You should know that most claims do involve a claim being denied and then an appeal being filed. Ask about their success with the appeals process and at what level is your claim most likely going to be approved.
How long does the claims process usually take? The timeframe depends on your individual claim and the stage in which it is currently. For a new disability claim, the average processing time can vary from 3 months to 9 months.
For claims that are appealed following the initial denial, the processing varies from 8 to 16 months in most cases. If the claim gets denied at the administrative law hearing, you will advance to the appeals council stage which takes anywhere from 14 to 18 months after you file a request for review.
How A Lawyer Can Help You With An Administrative Law Judge Hearing
Your odds of being approved for disability benefits increase significantly when you are represented by a disability attorney. Your chances of a claim being approved are at their highest when you reach the hearing level before the administrative law judge. An administrative law judge hearing is just like any case in court.
You will testify before a judge, and medical and vocational experts may be called to testify. You should be prepared to respond to the questions, and your attorney will be able to help you get ready for this. An attorney will know what kinds of questions you may be asked and will help you get ready to give your testimony. Your attorney will be able to review the details of your claim and will know what additional evidence and documentation you need to have a successful claim.
Your attorney will gather any additional evidence or documentation that you might need to get your claim approved, and your attorney will be able to determine if witnesses could help you with your claim. If so, your lawyer will handle the process of subpoenaing witnesses to testify on your behalf during the hearing.
You can retain a disability attorney at any time during the disability claims process, but you should retain one before the hearing level so you can make sure you are prepared to testify before an administrative law judge.
If you are applying for disability benefits, you should enlist the help of a disability lawyer who represents
disabled workers in your area.
Consult With A Disability Lawyer
If you are unable to work because of a medical condition, you should talk with a disability lawyer before you get your disability claim underway. The claim can be filed online at www.ssa.gov, or you can call 1-800-772-1213 and speak with a representative. There are more than 1,300 field offices where you can schedule an appointment with an SSA representative and meet face-to-face.
Your attorney can fill out all your paperwork and get your claim underway. The claim form must be filled out in detail with all questions answered accurately and in detail. With the help of a lawyer, you are going to make sure everything is filled out properly and effectively. When you retain a disability attorney, you will not have to pay anything out of pocket or upfront. Instead, your lawyer will take the case on a contingency basis, which means that he or she will not be paid until you win and recover compensation for your backpay.
To consult with a disability lawyer who handles claims in your area, complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share the details surrounding your disability claim. Someone with an attorney’s office will review your information and then get back with you determining the best way to proceed with your claim and get approved for monthly disability benefits.