Should I have a lawyer working on my disability case?

Should I have a lawyer working on my disability case?

Most people filing for Social Security Disability are perfectly capable of filing their initial disability claim. If your disability claim is at the disability determination agency, you may be asked to provide more information, attend a consultative examination, or complete questionnaires for them. If you can handle these things, you most likely do not need a lawyer at this level of the disability process. However, if you are an individual with mental or physical impairments that make this difficult, it may be advisable for you to get a lawyer or Social Security representative to handle your disability case for you.

But'it is worth noting that even individuals with good memory, attention to detail, and high intelligence who are not represented can sometimes make terrible mistakes on their claim. I am personally aware of one case in which an individual, a computer network administrator, filed his claim online, never fully completed the claim online, and was then sent a denial notice. He did not appeal (you only have 60 days) and let his appeal period expire. Why did he not appeal? Because, from his point of view, he had not finished supplying the information on his application. Which brings up two things: one is that you cannot take forever to finish an online application for disability, and two is that a lawyer would have told him that he needed to file the appeal ASAP or face starting over again, thus wasting months of time. The individual was forced to start over again from scratch. A disability attorney handling the case would not have allowed this otherwise smart individual to make such a terrible mistake based on a poor assumption.

At this risk of being redundant, if you receive a denial notice, you have to file a reconsideration appeal to continue your disability claim. If you can handle completing your appeal forms or filing your appeal online, you may not need a lawyer at this time. However, many disability claimants seek out the services of a Social Security representative or disability lawyer to handle their reconsideration appeal simply because it is highly likely their disability case will have to go to a disability hearing before administrative law judge.

Why? Most reconsideration appeals are denied (in many, if not most, states the denial rate on a request for reconsideration disability appeal is over 80 percent). And this makes sense when you consider that the reconsideration appeal is not any different in the process of decision-making; it is simply sent to a different disability examiner. That second examiner will review what happened with the first examiner, however if the initial examiner did not make an obvious mistake the odds are strong that the decision will be the same. In other words, a second denial.

So what next? If you are denied, a Request for an Administrative Law judge review appeal must be filed in order for your claim to keep moving forward. At this point, you should have a lawyer or Social Security representative working on your disability case. You need someone who knows Social Security Disability case law and vocational guidelines to present your disability case in a way that is favorable for your case being approved by an administrative law judge.

Over the past three decades, it is very clear that individuals who have a case at a disability hearing and who are represented are much more likely to win.

See: What does a Social Security Disability Lawyer or Representative do for your claim?, How will an attorney help me win disability benefits?, and How much should my lawyer say at my Disability 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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