Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

What does Social Security Disability Representation Provide?

The chief goal of social security disability and SSI representation is to maximize a claimant's chances of winning benefits and also maximize how much they may receive in past due benefits, or back pay. Ordinarily, this is achieved by having one's representative (who may be a disability lawyer or a non attorney disability representative) handle the following:

1. The preparation of a disability case for a social security hearing.

2. The presentation of a disability case for being heard by a federal administrative law judge, or ALJ, at a disability hearing.

Both aspects of getting ready for a disability hearing are equally important. Preparation includes analyzing what happened previously on a case (i.e. the decisions that were made by disability examiners at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels) and obtaining further medical documentation that substantiate an onset date that provides for A) the establishment of monthly disability benefits and B) the payment of past due benefits, or disability back pay.

Medical documentation, of course, will include various types of medical evidence, such as the office notes of a claimant's regular physician or physicians, reports of blood work and imaging studies (xrays, MRIs, CT scans), and admission and discharge summaries from hospitals, as well as any documentation that might involve therapy, counseling, or specialized testing (such as spirometry, a.k.a. a breathing test).

This is the same type of information that is gathered by the social security administration prior to the hearing level. However, by the time a hearing takes place, SSA will no longer do any this type of evidence gathering and the responsibility for doing this will fall solely to the claimant or their disability attorney.

How important is it to obtain updated medical information and submit this to the judge who is deciding a case? It is crucial to the outcome since only new information will advise the administrative law judge of any changes in the claimant's condition, recent testing that has been performed, or any changes in medical providers, such as doctors and hospitals where treatment is being received.

More imporantly, though, the social security administration cannot qualify a person for disability benefits unless they can provide at least some medical records that are not older than 90 days.

The reason for this is that, to determine that a person is disabled and eligible to receive disability benefits, the social security administration must show that they are currently disabled, as in the present moment. Older medical records are very important as well since they will establish how far back a person has been disabled according to social security guidelines and this will directly impact how much they can receive in social security back pay.

However, an approval cannot be made on a social security disability or SSI case unless the records show that the individual is currently disabled.

Unfortunately, most claimants who appear at a disability hearing without representation will be unaware of the importance of providing recent documentation. They will likewise be unaware of how far back their medical evidence should be obtained to support the most favorable onset date (which, as was stated, will provide for the maximum in back pay). By contrast, one of the chief goals of a disability representative, an attorney or otherwise, will be to obtain records that support these objectives.

Additionally, it should be noted that medical evidence is not simply limited to medical records. It also includes opinions that are obtained from doctors who can be classified as treating physicians. While doctor's opinions are sometimes obtained by unrepresented claimants, very often they are little more than short handwritten or typed statements in which the doctor states that their patient is disabled and unable to work. Because social security disability and SSI decisions are based on the functional limitations that resulted from a person's medical (or mental) conditions, such brief statements do little to help a case, if they do anything at all.

Disability representatives, on the other hand, will typically attempt to obtain a completed medical source statement (i.e. a residual functional capacity form) from a claimant's doctor or doctors and with the level of detail involved in such statements, a case that might otherwise have been lost can often be won at the hearing level.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

How does Social Security Disability Representation work?
Filing for Disability - Blind in one eye and a Learning Disability
Social Security Disability Issues and Representation
On disability for cerebral palsy, will I lose benefits if I marry?
What if I go to a Social Security hearing without an Attorney or a Disability Representative?
The Social Security Disability Representation Fee and What a Lawyer is Paid
Why does Representation increase the win ratio at a Social Security Disability or SSI Hearing?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

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

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
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?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria