Statistically, does an attorney make a substantial difference in a person's chances?
My answer: Yes. How have I arrived at this answer? From my own experience in disability claim representation and as a former disability claim examiner.
However, it's nice to see an actual statistic especially one that illustrates that the advantages of representation have been pretty good for quite a long time. Here's a statistic that was presented at a hearing before the social security subcomittee of the House Ways and Means committe several years ago:
"SSA's statistics...indicate that 74.9% of Title II disability claimants are represented by an attorney. Statistics for the same period indicate that the allowance rate at the hearing level for Title II disability claimants with representation is 63.6%; in contrast, the allowance rate for unrepresented Title II claimants is 40.1%."
To be clear, these are old stats. However, they did illustrate that representation represented in a nearly 50 percent increase in the chances of winning at a disability hearing. And that is something that is not likely to change regardless of the year.
There are many reasons to have representation but this page gives a few: Disability Lawyers, Medical Records, and Social Security Hearings.
Here is an excerpt from the page:
A disability attorney will obtain a copy of the claimant's file. This is done for several reasons: to review the file and to see why the claim was previously denied, as well as to observe the materials that were previously gathered by the disability examiner, such as substantiation of the claimant's work history and the medical evidence that was obtained from the claimant's doctors.
By reviewing the work history, the disability lawyer or representative can check to see if the claimant's past work was properly identified. Proper classification of past work (for instance, accounting clerk versus accountant, or light truck driver versus tractor-trailer-truck driver, etc) can absolutely make a difference in the decision reached on a claim.
By reviewing the medical records, the disability lawyer or representative can check to see if the evidence was evaluated properly. It may be that the claimant possesses greater physical or mental limitations than was considered to be the case by the disability examiner. If this is true, it may be that the claimant cannot return to a past job that was indicated by the disability examiner, or it may be that the claimant cannot do some type of other work that was indicated by the disability examiner.
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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