What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
Answers to questions about SSD and SSI disability
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
Social Security Disability Lawyers - Fees and Representation Information
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
While individuals filing for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration do not have to hire a disability lawyer at any level of the disability process, they should consider obtaining the services of a competent Social Security disability lawyer or disability representative if they are filing a request for an administrative law judge hearing--or sooner if their own personal situation warrants it.
What do I mean when I say personal situations that “warrant” the services of a disability lawyer? If you have a mental condition that limits your ability to remember, read, or complete tasks timely (memory loss and depression are often involved in such situations) or a physical condition that prevents you from writing (such as arthritis or the residual effects of stroke), or perhaps a severe vision problem that prevents you handling your appeal online or on paper, you should consider getting help if your disability claim is denied.
Social Security has a sixty day appeal period plus five extra days mailing time from the date of your denial notice. If you do not return your completed appeal either online, by mail, or in person at your local Social Security office within that time frame, your appeal might be denied requiring you to begin the disability process again.
This is especially true for your disability hearing appeal request. Administrative law judges routinely deny request for hearing appeals if they are late.
Note: To elaborate on this, if your request for a hearing is sent in late, but you are granted good cause (i.e. an excuse for being late on the submission of the appeal) by the social security office that received the hearing request, it may still be ruled as a late appeal by the administrative law judge that receives your case many months later. So...just because the social security office accepts a late appeal does not mean that a disability judge will do the same.
Another reason to obtain the services of a disability lawyer for your disability hearing is that they know how to present your disability claim to an administrative law judge. Administrative law judges use vocational and medical guidelines to make their disability decisions, and it is unlikely that an applicant will know the rules or guidelines. An experienced disability law practitioner will, however, be familiar with the vocational and medical guidelines used by SSA, as well as how claims are decided through the sequential evaluation process that is employed by both disability examiners and ALJs (administrative law judges).
If you decide to hire a disability lawyer make sure that you chose someone you feel comfortable with. Social Security requires you to sign a form selecting a disability lawyer as your representative. Your representative will have you sign the representation form (form SSA 1696) and a fee agreement when they take your disability case. You should read your fee agreement carefully before signing. Social Security allows a fee for representation to be paid only if your disability claim is won and there are past disability benefits due (back pay). Social Security currently limits a disability lawyer’s fee to $6000 or twenty five percent of any past due benefits, whichever is less.
However, Social Security does allow a disability lawyer to charge for incidental fees at a rate agreed upon in the fee agreement and these may be payable whether your disability claim is won or lost.
Incidental fees might include but are not limited to traveling, cost of medical records, phone calls, and even the cost of postage. Some disability lawyers charge incidental fees whether you win or lose, some only charge them if you win, and some do not charge incidental fees at all. Most lawyers will charge you upfront for one type of incidental expense, the cost of obtaining medical record updates from your doctors and hospitals. This is a cost that is unavoidable since your own medical treatment sources will typically not send records to the lawyer without expecting to be compensated in return; however, some attorneys will not charge upfront for this cost, but, instead, will allow you to reimburse them when the case is concluded. Bear in mind, though, that the majority of lawyers will charge upfront.
You should read all fee agreements carefully before signing them. Fee agreements are legally binding and your disability lawyer can demand payment for incidental expenses even if they lose (if you agreed to pay them in your fee agreement).
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Topics and Questions
SSD and SSI are Federal Programs
The title II Social Security Disability and title 16 SSI Disability programs operate under federal guidelines and, therefore, the program requirements--medical and non-medical--apply to all states:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Recent approval and denial statistics for various states can be viewed here:
Social Security Disability, SSI Approval and Denial Statistics by state
Special Section: Disability Lawyers and unnecessary claim denials