When do you need a Disability Lawyer for a Case?

"I have heart trouble due to rheumatic heart disease. I have shortness of breath, headaches and I have liver problems. Do i need a lawyer or just wait for their decision."

My response: The answer I often give is that you wouldn't necessarily need a disability lawyer if your case is pending at the disability application or reconsideration appeal level, but that you should absolutely get social security representation if your case is scheduled for a disability hearing, or if you have simply made a request for a disability hearing and are waiting on the scheduling.

Having said this, however, many individuals will benefit from having a disability representative working on their case at one of the earlier levels for several reasons:

1. A disability representative can ensure that deadlines (such as for appeals) are met.

2. A representative can often assist the claimant with complying with any information requests that are made by the social security administration. Sometimes, this will simply be due to the fact that a claimant's disability attorney will receive copies of whatever correspondence has been sent to the claimant (from the moment that SSA is notified of the fact that the claimant is represented, they will, from that point forward, be obligated to keep both parties (the claimant and their representative) up to date with what is happening on the case.

3. Some disability representatives will be proactive in trying to get the case won as soon as possible without necessarily having to go to a hearing. When a disability case can be proven without the need for requesting a social security hearing, or waiting for a hearing date to be set after a hearing has been scheduled, it can have the effect of saving months, perhaps even as much as a year's worth of time. For a disability claimant who is unable to work, this can make the difference between surviving financially...or not.

Ultimately, when a person will "need" a disability lawyer will be a judgement call. Representation can help at earlier levels. By the same token, many individuals will do ok with waiting until their case has been denied at the reconsideration level. Without any doubt, however, if the claim requires a hearing before a social security judge, the claimant should get representation.

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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