Do I Need a Social Security Disability Lawyer?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government program that provides compensation to workers with disabilities that prevent them from earning an income for a year or more. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program for disabled or blind children and older adults who cannot earn an adequate income.
Each program has specific requirements that beneficiaries must meet to qualify for benefits. To get those benefits, you must go through a complicated filing process, which may result in a denial. You have the right to appeal a decision, which means jumping through more bureaucratic hoops.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) states that you have a right to legal representation when filing or appealing. However, having a lawyer is not a requirement. It is possible to get through the process and receive benefits with no representation.
How Will a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help Me?
The process of filing for and appealing disability claims can be confusing. It’s easy to make a mistake or misunderstand your qualifications. There are several benefits to having a lawyer on your side for these processes.
A lawyer specializing in SSDI and SSI can help you with all steps of the process and give you peace of mind.
- Explain your options and chances.
A lawyer with expertise in social security disability will help you navigate the system. They can evaluate your situation and determine the strength of your case, how likely you are to be approved for benefits. They’ll explain your options and provide valuable advice.
- Increase your chance of success.
The most important reason to hire a lawyer for the application process is to give you a greater chance of approval. Applicants with legal representation are more likely to be approved for benefits.
- Provide experience.
A lawyer specializing in social security disability understands the system. They know how to present your case in the best way, how to prove the date of onset of disability, and how to successfully argue that your disability qualifies you for benefits.
- Make a successful appeal.
If you applied without representation and failed, a lawyer is a valuable asset in appealing. They will collect medical evidence and opinions and represent you at hearings.
The SSA Rules for Legal Representation
According to the SSA, you have a right to work with a lawyer when filing, but there are rules:
- The SSA allows you to have representation, but it must be an individual. You can choose an attorney from a firm, but the firm itself cannot be your representative. You can also choose a non-lawyer to represent you, but in either case, you must inform the SSA in writing.
- As of 2018, the SSA allows you to choose someone to represent you in the event you can no longer make decisions for yourself in the future. This is known as Advanced Designation. If you worry your disability will incapacitate you at some point, selecting a lawyer to represent you now can provide peace of mind. This representative does not have to be a lawyer.
- There are also rules regarding payment. Your lawyer cannot collect a fee from you without the permission of the SSA. They approve fee agreements before deciding on your benefits.
- The exception is if you pay for services in advance, but the lawyer must hold that payment in an escrow account or trust. Most reputable firms only charge a fee if they succeed in getting you benefits.
- The SSA does not require the approval of any fees for your representative during an appeal. The approval is only for the initial application for benefits. The fee for appeals cannot exceed 25% of past-due benefits.
How to Find a Social Security Disability Lawyer
Many lawyers and firms advertise specializing in social security disability. Disabilities are not uncommon, so there are many lawyers who genuinely have experience and expertise in this field. Make sure you find a representative who can prove that experience and back it up with testimonials and real outcomes.
You can find a lawyer simply by searching for social security disability law firms. You likely know people at work who have been through this process, so ask for referrals. Local organizations that advocate or provide services for the disabled may also be able to refer you to a good lawyer.
Before hiring any lawyer, with a referral or not, sit down with them and ask important questions, like:
- How many social security disability cases have you handled?
- Have you been through the appeals process with clients?
- What were the outcomes?
- What are my chances of getting benefits or overturning a denial of benefits?
- How long will the process take?
- When can I expect to begin getting benefits?
- Will you be handling my case, or will it be someone else in the firm?
- What are your fees?
Working with Your Lawyer
When you have hired a lawyer to handle your claim or appeal, make sure you provide everything they need to advocate for you. Your lawyer will need as much information as you can provide to show the SSA that you deserve benefits.
This includes your medical records, any incident reports or records if your disability resulted from an accident, medical bills, and opinions from your doctor on your disability level. They will also need to know about your work and income.
Hiring a social security disability lawyer is an important step in ensuring you get the benefits you deserve. They give you a better chance of success than going it alone. As soon as you think you have become too disabled to work, contact a lawyer to expedite the process.