Lawyers and Social Security Disability
Disability benefits are a federally run program through the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides financial assistance to those who have become disabled and are unable to work to earn a living wage. Disability benefits can be used to cover the costs of medical bills and everyday living expenses.
Being denied disability benefits is common, and if you feel that your application was wrongly denied, you can hire a lawyer to help you appeal the SSA’s decision.
When your disability benefits application is denied and you decide to appeal the decision, you should first research the disability lawyers in your area. Once you decide on a law firm to contact, you will call their office and they will perform an initial review of your case. The lawyer will look at the details of your case and why you were denied before deciding to represent you.
Most disability lawyers are instructed to only accept cases that will most likely be successful, so if you do not have a strong case, they will choose to reject your case.
Gathering Medical Evidence
In order to gain access to your medical records to gather evidence, the lawyer will have you sign a medical privacy release that allows them to do so. Most importantly, they will contact your treating doctors to get written statements about your disability diagnosis; prognosis; and a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment, which shows the functional limitations of your disability that make it unable for you to work.
Your lawyer may also request that you undergo a consultative examination, either with an SSA doctor or on your own.
Before your hearing with the SSA to determine if your case was wrongfully denied, your lawyer will hold a pre-hearing meeting with you to go over some of the potential questions you will be asked. This will be either in person or over the phone. Among the many questions, these may include:
• Describe the symptoms of your disability.
• When did you first become unable to work?
• Can you walk a flight of stairs and carry a gallon of milk?
Developing Theory for Your Case
Before your hearing, your lawyer will also develop a theory for why you are disabled, and use this as a strategy to present your case in court. The possible theories for your disability include:
• Your condition meets a disability listing
• You can’t perform your prior jobs, a.k.a., you “grid out”
• You can’t perform even a sedentary, or sit-down, job
Paying Your Lawyer
As with most legal cases, your lawyer will only be paid if you win your case. You will need to sign a contingency fee that says the SSA will pay your lawyer if you win your case.
The money that is paid to your lawyer will come out of your back payment amount. Usually, the lawyer is paid around 25% of your back payment lump sum, up to $6,000. For example, if you are awarded $20,000 in back payments, your lawyer will receive $5,000 and you’ll receive $15,000.