Using a lawyer to potentially speed up the disability appeal process

In theory, a person who decides to file a disability appeal on their own can potentially move their case through the Social Security Disability system just as fast as a disability attorney. That is to say, they can complete the required forms just as fast and can mail them in just as fast (note: this is assuming that attorneys actually send in paper appeal forms; in actuality, disability lawyers and non-attorney claimant's representatives have been directed by SSA to file appeals using the Social Security Administration's online process).

In many instances, though, claimants who file their own appeals fail to do the following:

1. Immediately contact social security upon receipt of a denial letter.

2. Complete the appeal forms as soon as they are received.

3. Mail them in to social security as soon as they are completed.

Quite often, the opposite of this is true. Claimants who have received a disability denial will very often wait several weeks before they even request an appeal and many will wait until close to the 60 day deadline to get the appeal paperwork completed and submitted.

Why does this happen? In many cases, feelings of depression may accompany having been denied on a disability claim. However, claimants who have been denied should always do the following:

1. Request an appeal immediately upon learning of being denied.

2. Complete and return the appeal forms immediately after receiving them.

Why is it so important to react quickly after a denial of Social Security Disability or SSI benefits has occurred? Because waiting simply adds processing time to your case.

Also, the more time that elapses between the denial of an initial claim and the processing of a reconsideration (a reconsideration is the first appeal that is available to claimants who have been denied), the more likely it is that the medical records that were previously submitted to social security will become too old to use. Yes, these medical records can still be evaluated but for a disability examiner to make a decision on a disability claim, the examiner must also generally have access to some records that are not older than sixty days.

What happens if the records "age out"? Most likely, when the reconsideration appeal is being processed, the reconsideration examiner (who is different from the initial claim examiner) will have to schedule a claimant for a consultative medical exam (often referred to as the "social security medical examination). This, of course, only adds more time to the processing of a disability case, sometimes as much as several weeks.

For this reason, it is apparent and obvious that a claimant who has been denied should file an appeal immediately and waste no time doing this.

Now, back to the question of using a disability lawyer to potentially speed up the process. If you have case representation, you can inform your lawyer that you have been denied (your lawyer will receive copies of everything that is mailed to you, but you should still contact your lawyer, just in case they do not receive their copy) and they should file your appeal for you.

As stated, the current requirements are that attorneys and disability representatives must file their appeals online so the appeal should always be filed on a timely basis provided the representative is properly notified of a denial taht has occurred.

Having said this, however, it is always safest for claimants who are represented by a disability lawyer to follow up with their lawyer to ensure that certain actions have been followed through on, and this includes the filing of disability appeals by the attorney or representative.

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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