If you think you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits and you’re considering applying, don’t let the long and sometimes complex Social Security system process dissuade you. While there’s a lot to think about and to keep straight as your claim goes through the full decision process, you don’t have to do it alone. Many qualified and knowledgeable Social Security disability attorneys can help you make the most of your claim and help you get approved for the benefits you’re eligible for as early in the process as possible.
How Can a Social Security Disability Attorney Help Me?
- Case review
- Application help
- Collection of medical information
- Communication with the Social Security Administration
- Navigation of the appeals process
You can certainly embark on the Social Security disability benefits claim process on your own – but chances are that if you work with a Social Security disability attorney, not only will your mind rest easier, but you’ll also be that much more likely to win your claim. That’s true for Social Security Disability Insurance claims and those for Supplemental Security Income.
Many disability attorneys have years of experience dealing with the SSI and SSDI disability benefits claim process – they know the ins and outs of the Social Security system and fully understand Social Security disability law, along with what the Social Security Administration will look for when it reviews your disability application. An attorney can handle your SSDI or SSI claim through the entire process – including appeals if those are necessary.
How Can a Social Security Disability Attorney Help Me?
There are many ways in which a Social Security disability attorney can be helpful throughout the initial SSDI or SSI claim and appeals process.
A Social Security benefits lawyer and his legal team will be familiar with the entire claims process, along with what the SSA is looking for as it reviews your application. The first step in the process will be having your skilled attorney make a thorough review of your case and advise you on the best course of action, either to apply for disability benefits or to appeal an earlier decision. Legal advice in this stage of the process can prove invaluable.
A disability lawyer is very familiar with what the SSA is looking for and can advise on the areas where your case is strong and where your disability application might need additional detail, expertise, or documentation. Knowing the strength of your SSI or SSDI claim from the very beginning can help ensure that you have a strong showing during your initial review. An experienced disability attorney can help design a strategy that can set you up for success from the start.
One of the most common reasons for a Social Security disability benefits claim to be denied is that the application is simply insufficient or incomplete. But having a Social Security attorney work with you on your application can help ensure that all appropriate elements are not only included but are also complete, compelling, and supportive to your claim.
Collection of Medical Information
Clear and compelling medical evidence is the heart of any successful SSI or SSDI benefits claim, so it’s worth making sure you’re including the best possible medical information. A Social Security lawyer can sort through the potential thousands of pages of medical evidence to determine what is most appropriate and most supportive of your claim.
If you’re willing to sign a medical release, an experienced SSDI attorney also can work directly with your medical team to collect the right kind of medical evidence and documentation that the SSA will need to be able to approve your claim. Your disability attorney may even be able to recommend additional tests or other steps to help strengthen your medical evidence.
Another common misstep with disability applications is including irrelevant, or even contradictory, medical testimony and documentation. Working with a disability lawyer can help ensure that the medical information included with your initial claim tells a coherent, comprehensive, and compelling medical story that supports your claim for Social Security benefit without confusion or contradiction.
Communication With the Social Security Administration
If you decide to work with a Social Security disability benefits lawyer, at that point, your attorney becomes the intermediary between you and the SSA. Since experienced attorneys are well-versed in the disability claims process, they are well-positioned to represent your Social Security disability case in a way that is most meaningful to the SSA and most likely to get your claim approved.
It helps to have an advocate who is checking in with the SSA regularly on your behalf. The SSA fields thousands of disability claims every year, so having someone checking on the status of yours and reminding reviewers of your case is a big plus.
Navigation of the Appeals Process
If your disability claim is denied during its first review, you will enter the lengthy and complicated appeals process, which is when a qualified disability attorney can become even more helpful. It’s important to note the high likelihood that your Social Security disability claim will be denied on first review. The SSA reports that fewer than 30% of SSDI benefits claims are approved during their first reading. On your behalf, a Social Security lawyer will file your request for reconsideration, which grants your claim a second review.
The appeals process is complex and contains several specific steps, all of which must be completed within specific deadlines. A disability attorney specializes in handling those details, so you can concentrate on collecting any additional medical information or documentation needed to make your appeal.
If you reach the administrative hearing stage of the process, your disability attorney will represent you before the administrative law judge as part of that process. It’s important to note that most disability claim appeals are won at the disability hearing stage, so working with an experienced and knowledgeable disability attorney can greatly increase your chances of winning your Social Security disability claim at this point.
How Much Does a Social Security Disability Attorney Charge?
Many people initially shy away from hiring a Social Security disability attorney because they’re worried about the costs. It’s important to keep in mind that a Social Security disability lawyer does not get paid unless you win your disability case – you don’t have to pay an up-front attorney fee. If you do win your SSI or SSDI claim, your attorney will be entitled to 25% of the amount of your disability back pay, with a cap of $6,000. The SSA will automatically deduct the lawyer’s fee and send it directly to him, so you won’t have to handle payment at all.
How Do I Choose the Best Social Security Disability Attorney?
The best Social Security disability attorney for you is one you like and trust – someone you can work with to complete and win your claim. If you have an existing relationship with a lawyer that you’ve worked with on other items, you can always ask for a recommendation.
You can also check with your family and friends, especially if any of them have gone through the disability claims process themselves. Getting a referral from another lawyer, friend, or relative is generally a good path – both are unlikely to refer to someone that isn’t reputable or effective. Either of these routes is likely to increase the level of trust you feel with a potential Social Security disability lawyer.
Another good path is to ask others you know who have gone through the disability benefits claims process and been successful. For example, if you’re involved in a support group or rehabilitation group with others who have been successful in getting their SSDI benefits, ask them if they worked with an experienced attorney or specific law firm and see if you can get a referral. You should generally be able to reach out in confidence to a disability attorney who has helped win claims for others.
As you look for referrals, below are some good questions to ask about any disability attorneys who are recommended to you:
- How well does the attorney listen?
- Is the attorney able to clearly explain complicated legal processes?
- Is the attorney responsive and gets back to clients quickly when they reach out with questions?
- How did the Social Security disability lawyer perform in terms of deadlines and commitments made to the client?
If you’re unable to find good referrals from any of these sources, you can also check with your local Bar Association, which will be able to provide contact information for Social Security disability lawyers who are members of the Bar Association. Keep in mind that, while membership in the Bar Association means that a practicing attorney currently is in good standing, that’s all it means. You won’t get a personal recommendation or any further information from the Bar Association.
As a last resort, you can look online for disability lawyers. Read customer reviews so you can learn about the disability lawyers in your area. If a Social Security disability lawyer has been involved in any type of disciplinary action, you’ll be able to find that with an Internet search, too.
Once you’ve decided which lawyers you’d like to meet with, you should set up some initial interview appointments with them. During your conversation, make note of how comfortable you feel with any potential lawyer. You’re going to need to discuss personal information. You should never feel judged by your lawyer for anything you have or haven’t already done to support your case.
Your lawyer should be interested in your case and your overall well-being. You should feel heard and understood, and you should never feel rushed or as though your lawyer has more important business than your case. Most importantly, you need to trust your lawyer – you’re putting your potential livelihood in their hands, so you need to be confident that your lawyer takes that responsibility seriously.
Hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer
Navigating the world of Social Security disability benefits claims and disability law can be complex and overwhelming – by some estimates, as many as one million applications currently stand in the queue to be considered for approval. And while no claimant is required to hire a Social Security disability attorney when filing a claim, most people who do so find it tremendously helpful and may win their claims faster and with less worry and complication.
Once you find a Social Security disability attorney or law firm that you trust and feel comfortable with, hiring them can take a huge burden of angst and responsibility off your shoulders. Working with a qualified and knowledgeable legal partner can greatly increase your chances of having your claim approved.