When is the time to get a disability lawyer?
Some people will get an attorney or non-attorney representative at the very start; however; most wait until they receive their initial disability decision. That isn't a bad approach to take. At the initial disability claim level, i.e. the application, a representative usually has very little involvement with the case. If you obtain representation at this stage of the process, you will have to pay a fee if the case is won and there is a back payment of benefits. In most cases, that will be a fee paid for not much being done on your behalf.
How much is the attorney fee? This is set by law. The Social Security representation fee is 25% of your back payment or 6000.00 whichever is less. So, if you have a lawyer at the very beginning and you win...you would have to pay that fee if you are approved, even if the representative has not yet performed any service.
When you should get a disability lawyer from the beginning
Now, having said that, this does not mean all disability applicants should exclude the idea of getting a disability representative when they first file. For example, if you have memory problems or other conditions that would make it difficult for you to provide the necessary information to aid in the processing of your disability claim, it could be wise to have a disability lawyer or representative to handle your disability claim for you.
This is how it should go for most individuals, though. If your disability application is denied and you do not feel you are able to complete your appeal online or via paper forms, it may be time to consider a competent disability lawyer or representative. They can file your reconsideration appeal for you to make sure you do not exceed the 60 day appeal period. This is important, of course. If you do not file your reconsideration appeal timely, you may have to begin your disability claim again.
Certainly, if your reconsideration appeal is denied, it may be time to get a disability representative. Simply because the next level of the Social Security Disability appeal process is a disability hearing before an administrative law judge. While these hearings are somewhat informal, they still involve a judge and complex disability vocational rules. It would be prudent for you to have a lawyer/representative who is familiar with the case law and medical vocational rules that may help you win your disability claim. The wait time for a disability hearing is more than 24 months in some areas; therefore you would want to give your disability claim the best chance of being approved.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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