How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Although you are not required to have any sort of legal representation at a disability hearing, statistics show that those who have an attorney are far more likely to be approved for benefits than those who choose to represent themselves.

The average individual, particularly one who is suffering from a debilitating physical or mental condition, will not be able to adequately prepare for a disability hearing.

On the other hand, attorneys specializing in representing SSD/SSI claimants will be well versed in disability law, including which medical records are necessary to demonstrate disability; the criteria needed to meet a listing in the blue book (the official Social Security Disability handbook); how to demonstrate, through medical records, an inability to return to prior work or any other work due to diminished residual functional capacity (activities a claimant can or cannot do); and how to use the vocational grid to show that, even if the claimant is capable of performing certain tasks, he is not capable of earning the current substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount each month.

Going to a hearing unrepresented is not advised

Those who are represented by either a qualified disability attorney or non-attorney representative don’t have much to do in preparation for a hearing, other than show up. A competent disability representative will ensure that all of the documentation needed to substantiate a claim is in the file and readily available for a judge’s review.

Keep in mind that disability judges decide cases based on all the documentation in claimants’ files, including that which is gathered by disability examiners—it’s best to have someone competent advocating for you who can ensure that your file contains the information needed to counter any negative input from a disability examiner.

Most disability hearings are brief, lasting only about 20-45 minutes, and can be a bit off-putting to claimants because the administrative law judges who decide disability cases can seem unsympathetic--some find them openly rude.

How are disability attorneys paid?

In addition, disability attorneys work more or less on contingency, which means they do not collect payment unless they win the case. The most a disability attorney may collect is 1/4 of a claimant’s back pay, and the Social Security Administration has capped that amount at $6,000. True, some lawyers will charge for minor expenses, such as having medical records copied, but these are listed in the fee agreement, which is not binding unless it is approved by SSA. There should be no surprises when it comes to paying your attorney (provided you read the agreement carefully before you sign it).

So, yes, although it is not required, most people need and can afford to have a lawyer represent them at their disability hearing.

Some may even benefit from legal representation at an earlier stage in the process. Although there are many lawyers who will not take a disability case until the hearing stage, there are some who are willing to work with claimants from the moment they file. While early representation is not needed by many, there are nonetheless many, particularly those with mental, emotional, or cognitive medical conditions (depression, bipolar, anxiety disorder, memory loss, etc), who need assistance early on.

The most common mistakes made by claimants that a disability attorney will know to avoid, are:

1. Not supplying a disability examiner with additional information in a timely manner (this request is usually nothing more than a 10-day call-in letter).

2. Not attending a consultative exam (CE), or social security medical exam. Repeated failure to attend CEs without a good reason or without rescheduling the exam could be used as a basis for denial.

3. Not supplying a complete medical or work history, one that includes contact information for all past employers, past job duties, and medical treatment sources.

4. Not appealing a denial. Some claimants do not realize that it is pretty common for disability claims (about 70%) to be denied by DDS, only to be approved on appeal. However, the reconsideration appeal must be filed within 60 days of the initial denial (plus 5 grace days for mailing). A surprising number of claimants fail to meet this deadline.

Failure to comply with any of the above can, at the very least, delay a disability examiner’s decision to approve (or deny) benefits, and could be used by a disability examiner as a basis to deny the claim.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

How do you get proof of your disability from your doctor?
When does Social Security send you for a neurological exam?
Should I get representation for my disability hearing?
What does a Social Security Disability Attorney or Representative do for your claim?
Getting a Social Security Disability Attorney or Representative for your case
How will an attorney help me win disability benefits?
Disability Lawyers, Medical Records, and Social Security Hearings
What Expenses Will A Social Security Attorney Charge In Addition To The Fee?
Can a disability attorney speed up my disability hearing case?
Should you get a Disability Lawyer before you File for Disability, or get an answer on your claim?
Using a lawyer for a Social Security Disability, SSDI, case
Social Security Disability, children dependent benefits, and Marital Status
Social Security Disability For Back Condition pain in California
How much can you make in California and still apply for disability?
Disability requirements and criteria in California

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.