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SSDRC Disability Blog

What are you paying for when you get a disability lawyer?

This is a very interesting question, mainly because there are so many assumptions as to what one will get when social security disability representation is obtained.

Here are some of those assumptions:

1. A disability lawyer will ensure that my social security disability or ssi case is won.

2. A disability lawyer will be able to speed my case up.

3. A disability lawyer will do everything for me on my case.

Let's discuss these assumptions in order.

Related: Cost of getting a disability attorney

Assumption one - will a disability lawyer guarantee that your disability claim will be won? Answer: No. There is truthfully no way to guarantee that a case will be won and anyone who offers this guarantee is "off-base" at the very very least. Can you improve the chances of winning a social security disability claim and, more specifically, can a disability lawyer improve your chances of winning benefits? The answer to both these questions is yes.

How can YOU improve your chances of eventually winning benefits? Several ways---

A. Always appeal in a timely fashion when you have been denied (because if you don't, you'll have to start all over again with a brand new application).

B. Go to a medical exam if social security decides to send you to one (failure to do so can result in being denied on the basis of "failure to cooperate").

c. Stay on the lookout for correspondence regarding your claim (you can't appeal if you don't know you were denied and you can't go to a disability medical exam if you don't know one was scheduled).

D. Keep up with your medical treatment (granted, this is very difficult if you no longer have medical insurance).

E. Report your medical treatment to your attorney (or non attorney rep) if you have one, so your representative will know who to request records from. Also report this the individual who is processing your claim if the claim has not proceeded to the hearing level (this would be the disability examiner who is assigned to your case).

F. Stay compliant with your medications (again, difficult to do if you don't have insurance, but a disability judge may use it against you if you have not been "compliant" with your prescription medicine regimen---your inability to obtain these meds is not the primary factor in their eyes).

Now, how can an attorney improve your chances of winning? Well, an attorney may take quite a bit of anxiety away by doing status checks for you and by filing your appeal paperwork for you. But, the maximum benefit you will obtain from a disability attorney will be at a disability hearing. At a hearing, a disability attorney will present your case and argue, in the context of social security rules and regulations just why it is that you should be approved for benefits.

Can you do this yourself? You can try, but very very very very very few disability claimants will even know what the listing book is, what residual functional capacity is, what the grid is, what the significance of specific medical evidence is, and what the importance of a treating physician's detailed and directed opinion is. So, in other words, 99% of all disability claimants will not be able to provide representation for themselves that is equal to what they would obtain from an experienced lawyer or non attorney representative. That' my opinion, of course, but I believe it to be valid.

Assumption two - will a disability lawyer will be able to speed your case up. Possibly. If your claim is pending at the hearing level (meaning that you or your representative have already requested an ALJ--administrative law judge--hearing and you are now waiting for a hearing to be scheduled), AND your financial circumstances or medical situation is dire (i.e. you are in danger of losing your domicile, having your utilities shut off, or not being able to obtain needed medications), then your representative may be able to get your hearing request expedited on the basis of dire need.

Can a disability lawyer speed up your case if it is pending at the initial claim or first appeal level? It probably doesn't happen that often but it's possible and here's why: when a claimant's case is sitting on disability examiner's desk (or in the filing cabinet) it's mainly sitting there because the examiner is waiting on medical records to be received. If a claimant or a claimant's rep can assist to obtain those records and get them to the examiner who's assigned to the case, it can potentially shave weeks off the total processing time.

Assumption three - a disability lawyer will do everything for me on my case. Well, let's put it this way. A disability attorney or non attorney representative will typically do nearly everything. Meaning? The rep will complete your appeal paperwork, work to gather your most recent records, attempt to get statements from your treating physicians, submit copies of these records to the examiner or (most likely) the judge handling your case, and will prepare your case for presentation at a hearing. Many reps will also send reminder notices for any consultative exams that may have been scheduled and for hearings that have been scheduled.

Will a lawyer or non attorney representative actually complete your disability application for you? Well, this is not unheard of. Some reps will allow their office staff to assist claimants in the completion of disability applications and questionaires (such as for work history and activities of daily living).

However, to be quite frank, this shoud actually be done by the claimant and for a simple reason. Only the claimant will know his or her work history and daily activities, and only the claimant will be able to provide a list of medical treatment sources (needed for the application). Though, in most cases, a claimant who is experiencing difficulty with SSA forms will be able to receive assistance in completing these forms from the office of their representative.

When should you find help for a disability claim? Well, you can actually find representation at any point in the process. You should definitely get representation if you have requested a hearing. And if your claim has been denied at the basic application (initial claim) level and your next step is to request your first appeal (called a review or reconsideration), you may wish to consider finding representation as well.

Reason: most first appeals are likewise denied---meaning that if your claim is denied at the application level you will probably find yourself on the road to a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

How to file for disability in Michigan
Maximum disability attorney fee
Getting a Social Security Disability overpayment forgiven
Can your doctor get you on disability?
When you apply for disability, do they investigate you?
Help from your doctor to get disability
Filing for disability with repetitive stress
Can you win disability if you have a job?
Approved for disability for cancer
Will SSI deny my claim?
How long to get a Social Security decision letter?
How to file for disability in New York
Social Security medical disability determination process
How to file for disability in Alaska
How severe must your condition be to be awarded Social Security Disability or SSI?
Meniere's disease and filing for disability

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

How and why to check Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability back pay
Non medical requirements for disability
Qualifying for disability, SSD SSI
When does social security consider you eligible for disability benefits?
Who qualifies for SSI?
Forms to complete when filing, applying for disability
How long does SSDI and SSI disability take to get?
Filing for disability with Depression
Can You Get Approved For SSI or SSD Benefits with a Mental Condition
How long for a disability judge to make a decision?
While you are in your disability interview
The SSD and SSI definition of disability
Filing for disability with carpal tunnel syndrome
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Can you work if you get a disability check?
Disability application denied
File for disability, the application
How to get disability benefits
Conditions that get approved for disability
How to Appeal a disability claim denial from Social Security