Who can Help you Apply for Social Security Disability or SSI?

In recent posts, I've discussed situations in which applicants for disability, or potential applicants, might require help to apply for Social Security Disability or SSI.

In one of those posts, I mentioned the fact that applicants with mood disorders or memory problems might particularly need assistance in applying for for disability. In another post, I mentioned a situation in which a person failed to "follow through" on a claim for disability (this happens more than people would think) and I expressed my belief that, sometimes, individuals simply need to have someone available who can ensure that a disability claim is filed correctly and that deadlines are met. And in yet another post, I mentioned the story of a person who had filed for disability via the help of a hospital social worker.


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3. Someone to help you with your Social Security Disability or SSI claim

The point of this post is to point out (sounds redundant, I know) two things. First of all, some indivduals will need assistance in either starting a disability claim or in handling a claim after it has been started. Second, there are individuals out there who can sometimes provide some level of assistance.

1. Social Workers, including hospital social workers and, possibly, adult services social workers (generally found at a local Department of Social Services). The extent to which social workers may render assistance may be limited to getting an application filed. But for some claimants, this is help enough.

2. Disability representatives, as in disability lawyers and non-attorney representatives. You'll find a great amount of variance regarding the level of assistance offered by various reps. Some are interested in taking a case only after a claimant has filed on their own and some will only take cases in which claimants have filed AND have been denied. However, there are some reps who will "go the entire distance" for a claimant. That is, some will actually assist a claimant in getting an application started with social security and then handle the case all the way through to a disability hearing (and to the appeals councial and federal court, if necessary).

3. Independent Disability Advocates - By this, I mean individuals who work at organizations such as independent living centers and offer free assistance for Social Security Disability and SSI claimants. With these types of advocates, there may be an extremely wide degree of variance regarding the level of assistance offered. Some may offer information on applying, some may offer assistance in getting disability applications started, and some may even offer advocacy services at hearings.

Quite honestly, I don't know enough about these types of advocates to apply a broad brush in categorizing what they do. However, I would be hesitant to give a blanket recommendation to this type of advocate for something as important as a Social Security Disability or SSI disability hearing. Reason: hearings take a LONG time to get to and you don't want, for lack of a better phrase, an amateur for a rep.

Quite the opposite, you want someone who understands the actual adjudication process for SSD and SSI claims and understands working concepts such as closed periods, substantial gainful activity, the medical vocational grid, the issue of medication compliance, the importance of the opinion offered by a treating physician, DAA materiality, medical onset versus alleged onset, date of entitlement, etc, etc, etc. I'll say it again---disability hearings are too important and have too much at stake to use anyone other than someone who fully understands the Social Security Disability SSI system and what is required to win a case at the hearing level.

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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