Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in Arizona
Claimants with disability representation in Arizona tend to be approved in higher percentages, need fewer appeals, and have more favorable "dates of onset" (the date the disability is proven to have begun) which can result in higher back pay benefits.
Representation may be through a disability lawyer or a specialized non-attorney disability representative. Many non-attorney representatives are actually former Social Security Administration Claims Specialists and Disability Examiners.
A qualified representative will be knowledgable with regard to Social Security administrative law and procedures, particularly concerning 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 obtaining the most relevant case evidence, analyzing it correctly, and incorporating it as part of a winning strategy for an SSD or SSI claim.
To learn about fees for representation, see: "How do disability lawyers get paid?"
If you are considering filing for Social Security Disability (SSD) or SSI benefits in Arizona, your chances of winning benefits are a little less than 50/50. In Arizona, 53.4% of all initial disability claims, i.e. disability applications, are turned down by the Arizona disability determination services (DDS).
If you appeal the denial by filing a request for reconsideration with DDS, your chances of winning are 30.6%, which means that about two-thirds of all appeals are denied. If these figures seem discouraging, you might be surprised to learn that Arizona SSD and SSI approval rates are actually well above the national average.
Simply put, Arizona residents are more likely to win disability benefits than applicants in other states; however, despite this relatively favorable climate, it is important to keep in mind that, at the first two levels of the disability determination process, the odds of winning are against you.
Many individuals filing for SSD or supplemental security income (SSI) benefits in Arizona will find that they are able to comply with the most basic requests for information and filing deadlines of the social security administration (SSA) and the Arizona Disability Determination Services without the need for counsel.
Though it should be noted that some cases are lost because DDS was not notified of specific medical record documentation and a significant percentage of claimants who are without representation fail to file an appeal on a timely basis.
Additionally, there are instances in which early representation can allow a claim to be won without the need for appeal, which can save many months in case processing time. Individuals who have chronic mobility or pain symptoms, memory lapses, or depression or anxiety, will also often benefit from obtaining representation at the start of the claim process.
The majority of individuals filing a claim in Arizona will be denied by DDS at both the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, and will need help making their case for disability.
Those who are denied at the application level should probably consider finding representation simply because the odds of being denied on the first appeal, the reconsideration, are over 80 percent. Those who have been denied twice by DDS (at the application and reconsideration levels) should certainly consult with a qualified disability attorney or qualified non-attorney disability representative.
It is never recommended that a claimant should go to a disability hearing unrepresented even if they have proceeded through the first appeal level, the request for reconsideration, unrepresented. It is often the case that judges in Arizona will even advise claimants who show up unrepresented at hearings to have their hearings rescheduled so as to allow the claimant the opportunity to consult with a representative before the hearing is conducted.
Arizona disability applicants with representation may be as much as 50 percent more likely to win benefits from an administrative law judge than those who represent themselves, perhaps, in part, because judges are more receptive to arguments presented by lawyers. However, this is more likely because a lawyer or disability representative who specializes in SSD and SSI claims in Arizona will be able to put together a better argument that is supported by a knowledge of the regulations, rulings, and grid rules, and, thus, a stronger case.
Unrepresented claimants, by contrast, generally are unaware of what is required to properly prepare a case prior to hearing, or even what types of evidence to focus on, let alone the importance of obtaining a medical source statement from a claimant's treating physician.
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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