Can the Social Security Office Recommend a Good Disability Lawyer For Me?
This is not a common question, but it has come up before.
Social Security is not in the business of recommending specific representatives for individuals who are filing for Social Security Disability. Which makes perfect sense. The Social Security Administration is not affiliated with any attorneys or non attorneys who represent disability applicants, as it would most likely be considered unethical and a conflict of interest for Social Security to be involved with Social Security Disability representation.
That being said, some local Social Security offices have a list of attorneys and non-attorney representatives who practice in their jurisdictional areas (and some offices used to have such a list but no longer do as a result of favoritism accusations). Naturally, you are free to choose a local or national Social Security attorney or representative for your disability claim, or proceed unrepresented.
When choosing your Social Security representative, make sure that it is someone you feel comfortable with rather than basing your decision on statements as to a representative's win loss record. A number of prospective representatives make claims regarding 90-99 percent win rates. Which, of course, sounds very encouraging to an individual who's looking for able representation.
However, very often such high win percentages are achieved by representatives who are highly selective as to which cases they will actually take. Obviously, an attorney or non-attorney claimant's representative will win a far higher percentage of cases if they limit their cases to individuals who are 55 and older and have a limited education. The point being: a high win-ratio is not necessarily indicative, by itself, of the quality of a disability representative (though, by all means, you want a rep who wins significantly more cases than he or she loses).
Choosing a good lawyer or representative is basically a gut level decision for you. When you meet the representative you must determine if you feel they are the right person for you to work with, but also whether or not they seem knowledgeable about Social Security Disability (yes, there are attorneys and non-attorneys who take cases and, despite that fact, know very little about Social Security Disability eligibility), and most importantly do they seem to value your business.
However, having said that, it is nonetheless apparent that determining who is and who is not a "good fit" may be, in practical terms, impossible. This would be similar to knowing the quality of a bed before actually sleeping on it for several days. How can you really know?
For this reason, referrals are often the best method of finding representation. Particularly referrals from individuals who have won their disability benefits by using a specific representative and have a good story to tell about the service they received and the way their case was handled.
Social Security cannot recommend a good lawyer, so you must determine who is a good disability lawyer or disability representative for you.
Lastly, remember to read all fee agreements thoroughly because fee agreements are considered to be legally binding contracts.
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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