Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in Alabama

Claimants with representation in Alabama tend to be approved in higher percentages, have a need for fewer appeals, and more favorable "dates of onset" (the date the disability is proven to have begun) which can result in higher back pay benefits.

A qualified representative will have a knowledge of Social Security administrative law and procedures, especially with regard to how claims are approved through the Social Security listings and the medical vocational grid rules.

A qualified and competent representative or lawyer will also be skilled in the ability to obtain the most relevant case evidence, analyze it correctly, and incorporate it as part of a winning strategy for a claim.

This, of course, is where unrepresented claimants may have their greatest disadvantage. Medical records, even when they are submitted in great quantity, will not, in and of themselves, win a disability claim.

Instead, the evidence that is presented must either A) demonstrate that a claimant has what SSA refers to as a listing-level impairment, or B) the records that are obtained must prove the existence of functional limitations that rule out the claimant's past work activity, as well as rule out their vocational capacity to switch to new and other types of work.

A qualified and experience disability representative or attorney will know which information in a claimant's cumulative medical records is actually relevant and helpful toward winning a claim for disability.

Representation for SSD or SSI benefits in Alabama may be provided through a disability lawyer or a specialized non-attorney disability representative. Many non-attorney representatives are former Social Security Administration Claims Specialists and Disability Examiners who have many years of experience both reviewing and deciding claims.

Should there be a preference for one type of representative versus the other? In actuality, no. But since the Social Security system is fairly complex and intricate, the representative a claimant chooses should be one that specializes in Social Security cases only. For example, an att

1. When can you get a disability attorney or representative in Alabama? - A person filing for disability may obtain representation at any point in their claim. Many claimants will seek representation after the claim has been initially denied (which, in most states, will mean that the next step will involve requesting a reconsideration appeal).

At the very least, however, a claimant should be represented by the time their case gets to the hearing level. Going to a hearing unrepresented is nearly always ill-advised and many judges will advise claimants who appear by themselves at a hearing that they may have their hearing rescheduled so that a disability attorney or non-attorney disability representative may be obtained.

2. Should you get early representation on a disability claim? - Some claimants will choose to get representation after their initial claim has been denied. This is usually very helpful because, from that point forward, it ensures that all appeals will be filed in a timely manner and that the case will be monitored by a third party. Many individuals, however, will benefit from representation at the very beginning of the process. In many instances, this may mean a claimant being assisted in the filing of their claim and this

3. Will a disability attorney speed up a claim and help you get a decision faster? - At certain points in a claim, a representative may be able to introduce evidence that results in a decision being made faster than it would be made otherwise. At the hearing level, an attorney may request an on-the-record decision if they feel the evidence of the case is particularly strong. However, even at the application and reconsideration appeal levels, an attorney may be able to provide enough information to an examiner to facilitate an approval being made.

To learn about fees for representation, see: "How do disability lawyers get paid?"

Additional information

If you are filing for Social Security (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability in Alabama, your chances of being approved for disability benefits are very slim. Only 28.6% of disability applicants are approved for disability in Alabama compared to a national average of 31.1%. More than two thirds of the people who file a disability claim in Alabama are denied.

Does this mean you have no chance of winning disability benefits? Not necessarily, it just means the Social Security Disability process can be long and difficult.

If your initial Social Security claim is denied, you can appeal the decision with a reconsideration appeal. And this can be done with or without a disability attorney or a disability representative. Unfortunately, those who file their reconsideration are even less likely to win their disability benefits. About 83% of the disability claimants who file reconsideration appeals in Alabama are denied.

Denial rates for initial disability claims and reconsideration appeals are so high that many disability claimants across the nation assume they must be denied at least one time, perhaps two times, before they are approved for disability.

If your reconsideration appeal has been denied, you can appeal this denial by requesting a hearing with an administrative law judge. If you are an Alabama resident, your disability claim has a better than average chance of being approved for disability at your disability hearing. The Alabama disability hearing approval rate is 63.8% compared to the national average of 55.9%.

Since this is the best opportunity to win your disability case, you should consider obtaining the services of a disability attorney or non-attorney Social Security Representative who is familiar with Social Security Disability vocational and medical guidelines.

As an average claimant, it is unlikely that you would know what kind of medical or vocational information you need for your disability case, or how to interpret the basis for prior decisions, let alone how the medical-vocational grid rules were used to deny your claim at the disability application or reconsideration appeal levels.

Note: It does not matter if a claimant's representative is a non-attorney disability representative or a disability attorney. Many non-attorney disability representatives are former employees of SSA, or are former disability examiners such as the author of SSDRC.com, Tim Moore.

The most two important characteristics of a representative is that they be knowledgeable about the Social Security Disability (and SSI) system, and that they specialize in handling SSD and SSI claims. Many attorneys handles a variety of cases (traffic, malpractice, workman's comp, personal injury) and, thus, do not develop an expert knowledge of Social Security claims.

By contrast, non-attorney representatives, many of whom formerly worked in the system themselves, do only one thing: focus on title II Social Security Disability and title 16 SSI disability claims. The basic point, of course, is this: always choose a specialist, not a generalist, because the disability system is complex and encompasses regulations, administrative procedure, and court rulings. Attorneys who do not specialize often fail to have an adequate understanding of SSD and SSI even after years of practice.

At a hearing, the burden of being knowledgeable about the Social Security Administrative law system is even stronger since a disability lawyer or non-attorney disability representative will need to be cognizant of SSA regulations (from the code of federal regulations), be knowledgeable about prior Social Security court rulings, and will often be required to respond to expert testimony provided by a medical or vocational witness brought in by the judge.

It is for this reason that Social Security Disability judges routinely advise disability claimants who attend their hearing without representation of their right to representation.

In Alabama or any other state, a disability lawyer can be helpful not matter what level of the disability process your claim is at. If your initial disability claim is denied, they will file your reconsideration appeal for you and if your reconsideration appeal is denied they will file your disability hearing appeal for you. They prepare your disability case by obtaining necessary medical records, physician statements, or the services of a vocational or medical expert to help substantiate the facts of your disability claim.

Additionally, they will present your disability case to the judge in a way that is most favorable to you being approved for disability benefits. The services of a competent representative could make the difference between winning a losing your disability claim. It takes a long time to get a disability hearing and if you do not win your case, you will have to start this long process all over.

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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