Going to a Social Security Disability Hearing with a lawyer is better
A woman recently wrote in a forum that she was going to a Social Security Disability hearing alone. Her opinion was that a disability attorney would provide little benefit; moreover, she was of the mind that she would have no difficulty explaining the disability case to the administrative law judge.
Bad idea. And let rephrase at the risk of being redundant. VERY BAD IDEA. Yes, a percentage of claimants do go to disability hearings unrepresented, and a percentage of them win their cases. But, in my own opinion, the risk involved in doing this is unacceptable. If you consider the fact that even getting to a hearing after one has been requested can take two years, and that the entire process of filing for disability and then finally getting before an administrative law judge can take up to three years (or longer), it seems incredible that someone would actually take a chance of losing their case once they got to a hearing.
So, who are the individuals who believe they should go to disability hearings unrepresented? I suppose there are various types who hold this opinion. Very often, the ones I've encountered either A) have a very simplistic idea of what it takes to win a disability case, or have an ill-informed view of what happens at a disability hearing or B) simply balk at the idea of paying a disability attorney or non-attorney representative 25 percent of their back pay.
However, let me point this out. In addition to compromising one's chances of winning by going to a hearing alone, even a claimant who manages to be awarded benefits may not receive as much back pay as they might otherwise have received had they been represented by a disability representative who was able to succesfully establish the earliest possible onset date.
I occasionally come across individuals who advocate going to a disability hearing unrepresented, but I find their advice both foolish and dangerous. And for someone to argue that representation should be forgone simply to avoid the payment of a fee is nothing less than silly.
I should point out that I've never spoken to a single disability examiner or CR (social security field office claims rep) who ever considered, in the event that they had to file for disability, going to a hearing alone, and relying on their own personal knowledge of the disability system to "carry the day".
And, in fact, if you'll notice, when attorneys go to court on personal matters, they tend to go with someone else representing them.
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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