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Should you get a Disability Lawyer before you File for Disability, or get an answer on your claim?

Continued from: Should you talk to an Attorney before you file a Disability Claim with Social Security?

The question becomes, should you get a disability lawyer before you even file for disability, or before you receive an answer on your application for disability? And the answer, as we pointed out, is often no. However, there are cases in which early representation is a good option. And there are individuals who will clearly have an advantage in being represented from the very moment that their case begins.

Having a disability lawyer or disability representative will do the following for you:

1. You probably won't miss deadlines, such as for filing an appeal or going to a consultative medical exam. This is because your representative will know about your appointments and remind you.

2. Because your appeals will be filed on time, your case won't just die in the system. That happens often.

3. Social Security will be put on notice to notify your representative of everything that happens on your case, helping to ensure that everything proceeds properly.

4. If your case goes to a hearing, it will be prepared properly and argued before the administrative law judge with appropriate knowledge of disability rules and regulations.

An example of procrastination and how getting a lawyer would have saved time

The individual who was mentioned in the first paragraph of this page shows the validity of being represented from the very beginning. This person reportedly "considered" filing for disability for three years. Apparently, they never took the step of contacting the social security administration because the entire issue filled them with anxiety. This is not unusual, of course. It is a common reaction to be filled with fear at the thought of applying for disability, even more so if one has heard stories of how likely it is for a person to be denied, or of how long it can take to get through the system.

In this individual's case, however, the three years that he spent only "thinking" of applying for disability and never actually getting around to doing it could actually have seen him do the following:

1. Apply for disability - On average, a disability application filed with the social security administration will take 3-4 months for a decision.

2. File a reconsideration appeal - This is the first appeal in the social security system. It can be filed within 60 days of the denial on the disability application, though, for the sake of common sense, it should be filed immediately after the first denial is received so that time can be saved. Reconsiderations are nearly always denied. However, going through the recon step allows a person to proceed to the next step. Reconsideration decisions are usually reached in under 90 days.

3. File a request for a disability hearing - Filing for a disability hearing and then waiting on the hearing to be scheduled is the single biggest wait period in the entire social security system. The wait is lengthy, lasting sometimes longer than 1-1/2 years. This is because the social security system is now receiving more claims than ever before (the U.S. population is growing, getting older, and the social security administration, with its budget constraints, is not able to keep its workforce at a level that would allow for fast processing of claims).

4. Receive a date for disability hearing - Eventually, he would have received a hearing date and gone to a hearing. If he was properly prepared for the social security hearing, he would have chosen a disability lawyer or non-attorney representative to analyze his case, obtain additional evidence to support the claim.

In addition to this, the purpose of a disability representative is to present a theory of the case to the judge and an argument for approval in light of the relevant facts and the medical vocational rules and social security guidelines that apply to the case; the attorney or non-attorney representative will also respond to any testimony and hypothetical scenarios addressed by expert medical and vocational witnesses that the judge may choose to have appear at the hearing.

All of these steps, which are basically those that occur in most claims, would have been completed in under three years. If this individual had filed their disability claim instead of simply considering doing so, they would now be receiving monthly benefits. They would also have received social security back pay in all likelihood. Usually, past due benefits, or back pay, is significant and typically equates to thousands of dollars which can rescue many dire financial situations for claimants who have had to persevere through the system.

It is also quite possible that they would also now be receiving medicare benefits. There is technically a two-year wait for medicare following the first month of eligibility for disability benefits, but, due to the nature of how the system actually plays out, many claimants are eligible for medicare from the time that they receive their first disability check. However, this can only happen if the person has gone through the process of applying, being denied, appealing, and eventually winning the disability case.

So, should a person get a disability lawyer or non-attorney representative before they file a claim for disability, or before they have received an answer if they have already filed? Answer: some individuals will clearly benefit from doing so, especially if the thought of filing a claim makes them anxious to the point that they would not get the process started.

There are other examples of this type of anxiety at work. As a disability examiner, it was very common for me to see that many individuals who received a denial on a disability claim would fail to get an appeal sent in even though SSA gives claimants a full 60 days in which to do this. Sixty days is fairly generous, so why do so many individuals fail to submit an appeal before the deadline? Very often, it must be the result of anxiety. But also the result of depression when a claim has been denied.

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    Related pages:

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

    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