Many people are overwhelmed by the Social Security Disability application process. This isn't very surprising when you consider how frustrating the process can be. If you've read the various forums and blogs, you've likely heard more than a few stories about Social Security Disability nightmares.
Tales abound about people having legitimate claims denied, waiting years for benefits to begin, being treated unfairly during the appeal process, the list goes on...
If you are unable to work because of a medical condition, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA oversees two different disability programs that provide monthly benefits to those who meet the criteria to be declared disabled per SSA guidelines.
To receive disability, the condition must be expected to last a year or longer or it must be expected to culminate in your death. Disability claims can be complicated, and the odds of having a claim approved aren’t always in the favor of the disabled worker.
Those who have a disability advocate or a Social Security Disability attorney representing them are much more likely to have their claim approved. You may be concerned about affording an attorney or advocate to represent you throughout the disability claims process.
Disability attorneys and advocates take cases on the contingency basis. This means that your advocate or lawyer isn’t paid until your claim is approved and you get disability benefits.
Usually, a disability advocate or attorney receives 25 percent of your disability backpay – up to a maximum of $6,000. When your claim is approved, you will receive backpay. This is the total of your monthly payments dating back to the time that the SSA agrees you first became disabled and could no longer work for a living.
You cannot receive backpay for more than 12 months before your application date minus the five-month waiting period. However, it can often take several months to have a disability claim approved and those months are added into the count for backpay.
A study conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined that individuals who were represented by an attorney or an advocate were three times more likely to have their disability claim approved than those who represent themselves.
While some people hire an attorney straight away before they file their claim, there are others who wait until they have received a denial notice before they enlist the help of an advocate or a lawyer.
Regardless of where you are with your disability claim, you can still enlist the help of an attorney or an advocate who helps disability claimants get their claims approved and access the disability benefits that they need during this time. Disability benefits can be used to cover basic living expenses and the cost of your medical care.
How Many Claims Are Approved?
Each and every year, the Social Security Administration receives millions of claims for Social Security Disability benefits. Unfortunately, approximately 70 percent of these claims are denied during the initial stage of the application process.
What happens to the disability applicants who receive a denial of their claim for Social Security Disability benefits? If they have any hope of receiving disability benefits in the future, they must appeal the SSA's decision to deny their application for disability benefits.
To the frustration of many applicants, the appeal process is anything but simple. Proper representation can mean the difference between a successful appeal or a further denial of your Social Security Disability claim.
Statistics show that applicants who pursue the appeal process with proper representation are more likely to receive disability benefits than applicants who choose to represent themselves. The question is, how do you find a disability lawyer or advocate to represent you in your SSDI or SSI case?
The following information can help you choose the advocate or lawyer that is right for you.
When You Definitely Want an Attorney
When establishing if you qualify for disability benefits, a lawyer can help figure it out if you meet the qualificaitons. The Blue Book can be difficult to understand as it is written for medical professionals or disability advocates.
The need for a Social Security disability lawyer arises when your initial claim for Social Security Disability is denied. It is at this point that you should consider hiring an attorney to represent your interests.
When your initial claim for Social Security disability is denied you will have to go through an appeal process. People who have legal representation at this stage are often more successful in being approved for benefits than those who decide to go on and represent themselves.
A Social Security Disability attorney will ensure that you have a fair hearing and that you are asked all of the questions you should be asked during this process. It is important, however, that you choose a lawyer who is familiar with Social Security disability laws and what it takes to get a SSI or SSDI claim approved.
How Can An Attorney Help My Disability Claim?
If you are unable to work and are seeking disability benefits, there are many ways that a lawyer can help your claim. First off, the key to a successful case is hard medical evidence and other supporting documentation that proves your condition is so limiting you are unable to work.
Your lawyer will gather all your medical records from all your providers and help compile your file in a maneuverable manner so Disability Determination Services can see that you are unable to work.
Your lawyer will also go over your medical files and make sure that your records show that you technically meet the listing criteria. As an example, a listing may indicate that you must show that you have limited use of at least two limbs and that you must have been hospitalized at least three separate times for at least 24-hour intervals during the last 12 months.
Your lawyer will go through your records and make sure that is clearly indicated and will make those details more noticeable and accessible to your claim reviewer.
If you aren’t going to meet the criteria of a Blue Book listing, your attorney will help you gather up the necessary details to show that you are indeed disabled so you can garner approval through a medical vocational allowance.
This kind of approval involves your educational background, age, work history, transferrable skills, medical conditions, restrictions and limitations all being considered to determine if you are able to work. Basically, they will work to determine what kind of work – if any – you can do. The goal is to show the disability reviewer that you cannot work and therefore, your claim should be approved.
Representing You In Court
Most claims – actually about three-fourths of them nationwide – are denied when first reviewed. After the claim is denied, you will file a request for reconsideration. Upon the reconsideration review, very few claims are approved.
After the second denial, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. At this hearing, you will be questioned by the judge, and there will most likely be a vocational expert in attendance. The vocational expert will review the details of your case and will tell the judge if he or she believes you are capable of working and if so, what kinds of jobs you can do.
An attorney can represent you at this hearing and will be able to help you prepare for questioning at the hearing. An attorney will be able to determine what kinds of questions you will be asked and will be able to help you determine the best way to proceed with your claim. An attorney will also be able to determine if your condition is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits.
Ask the Right Questions
Finding a disability advocate or lawyer willing to take your Social Security Disability case should not be a problem. Finding a disability advocate or lawyer that is actually qualified to handle your disability claim can be a little trickier.
When retaining the services of a disability lawyer or advocate, you absolutely must ask the right questions. The last thing you want to do is hire an advocate or attorney, only to find out that the professional you have chosen is not all that you had hoped for.
This is why you must ask the right questions and get as much information as possible prior to deciding which advocate or lawyer you will work with.
What To Ask
The first thing you need to ask when you meet with the lawyer or advocate you are interested in working with is how accessible they will be. Many Social Security Disability attorneys and advocates handle a large volume of cases.
On account of this, some of these professionals may not be able to provide you with the individualized attention your case needs. You should discuss this concern with the advocate or lawyer you want to work with. Having your representative understand your concerns and needs right off the bat can prevent future headaches and misunderstandings.
You should also ask about the experience of the advocate or lawyer you are considering. Not all advocates are as experienced as they should be and some attorneys do not specialize in Social Security law.
Make sure your lawyer or advocate has the experience needed to understand the complex Social Security Disability claim process and the laws that will affect your particular disability case, such as what the current substantial gainful activity is.
While it might not seem like an important factor, personality should also play a role in your decision. You need to be able to get along with the Social Security disability advocate or lawyer you work with. This professional may be working with you for a year or more depending on how far you have to appeal your Social Security Disability case. If you are working with a lawyer or advocate who is rude or abrasive or does not respect your feelings, it will make things complicated.
Finding a Lawyer or Advocate to Work With
Whether or not you hire a lawyer to handle your Social Security Disability claim is up to you. It is a personal decision that only you can make. Just understand that if your initial Social Security Disability claim is denied, the appeal process can go much more smoothly if you have a lawyer working for you.
Fortunately, finding a qualified advocate or attorney to represent you during your Social Security disability case doesn't have to be a stressful or overwhelming process. You can fill out our Free Disability Evaluation to find a qualified Social Security Disability advocate or attorney in your area and to determine if your Social Security disability case could be approved.