Can I Do My Social Security Appeal Without Using A Lawyer?
Social Security does not require that a person use a lawyer for a disability appeal. In fact, Social Security Disability representatives do not have to be lawyers. Individuals who apply for disability with Social Security can appeal their disability decisions themselves, or have anyone else they wish file an appeal for them.
Additionally, disability applicants can have professional non-attorney representatives represent them for their disability appeals rather than a lawyer.
That said, however, disability applicants who feel that they cannot keep up with their disability appeal deadlines (all disability applicants must file an appeal within sixty-five days of their disability denial notice date), or manage their claim most efficiently, should have someone help them file their disability appeal.
For most individuals this will mean obtaining the services of a non-attorney representative or a lawyer when they receive their initial disability denial. However, if an individual is capable of completing and returning their appeal (either in paper form or via the internet) to Social Security within the sixty-five day appeal period, they have done what any representative could do for them at the reconsideration appeal level.
This scenario changes if an individual's reconsideration is denied. If a "request for reconsideration" appeal is denied (this is the first appeal), then the claimant's next step will be to request a hearing.
Most individual's who have to go before an administrative law judge (the individual who renders the decision at a disability hearing) should obtain the services of a knowledgeable representative who is either an attorney or an experienced non-attorney representative. This is practical simply because most individuals who have to appeal disability claims to the disability hearing level are not familiar with the rules and guidelines that govern Social Security Disability, nor are they able to present their own disability cases in a manner that will win their disability benefits.
Generally, representatives gather medical and vocational information that will be helpful to their client's cases and they are able to present these cases objectively using their knowledge of Social Security Disability vocational grids, disability rules, and case law.
In fact, Social Security Disability applicants with representation are as much as fifty percent more likely to win their disability claims at hearings versus those without representation.
In summary, any disability applicant can file their appeals and represent themselves at any disability proceeding, however many individuals benefit from having a representative or lawyer available to file their appeals and represent them should their disability claim require an administrative law judge hearing.
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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