Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in DC
Claimants who have disability representation in DC, the Distict of Columbia, tend to have a higher percentage of disability awards, need to file fewer case appeals, and obtain more favorable "dates of onset" (when the disability is proven to have begun) which can result in higher back pay benefits.
Social Security Representation may be provided through a disability lawyer or a specialized non-attorney disability representative. Many non-attorney reps are former Social Security Administration Personnel such as Claims Specialists and Disability Examiners.
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.
To learn about fees for representation, see: "How do disability lawyers get paid?"
Should you get a representative or attorney if you are filing for Social Security (SSDI) or Supplemental Security income (SSI) disability in DC? For most individuals filing for disability, the question is not if but "when" should I get a disability lawyer or representative? The simple answer to this question is you do not have to have a representative to file for disability. However, there is no denying that a representative can make the Social Security Disability process easier for their client.
Nearly 40 percent of all disability applicants are approved for disability benefits in DC. The national average is about 32 percent; the reality is that most disability applicants are denied benefits. It is at this juncture many disability claimants obtain a Social Security attorney or non-attorney representative to help them navigate the appeal process.
A representative makes sure that your appeals are filed timely with as much supporting evidence as possible. A proactive disability representative will attempt to win the case as soon as possible to avoid the necessity of additional appeals that add more months of time to a case.
For example, if a case is not won at the first appeal level, the reconsideration step, then the need for a hearing can easily add an extra year of time to a case. This, in and of itself, is a good rationale for considering representation from the very beginning, or at the very least after the first denial (at the disability application stage) has been issued.
In DC, like other states, you have sixty-five days from the date on your Social Security Disability or SSI denial notice to have your appeal received by your local Social Security office. With the advent of the online disability appeal process, you or your representative can complete all the necessary appeal forms and electronically send them to your local Social Security office.
If you do not wish to file online, you can still file a paper appeal; however the time limits still apply. 85 percent of all reconsideration appeals are denied in DC, versus a national average approval rate of 89 percent.
Most DC disability applicants will have to request a hearing before an administrative law judge if they hope to win their disability benefits. It takes many months to get to a disability hearing and if you do not have a representative already you may wish to consider obtaining one.
Do you need a representative? That decision is yours to make but before deciding to represent your own disability case before the administrative law judge you should consider that, at this point, you have already been denied at the initial disability claim and reconsideration appeal levels. This alone indicates that while you may have severe disabling conditions, your disability case is not straightforward enough to meet the requirements of a Social Security Disability or SSI claim approval.
At the hearing level, a representative who A) is familiar with Social Security Disability vocational and medical guidelines, the mechanisms for claim approvals (via the listings and the grid rules), the code of federal regulations, and the SSRs (Social Security Rulings) and B) can present a logical rationale for a benefit award (known as a "theory of the case") will have a good chance of making a successful presentation of your disability case to the judge.
The administrative law judge hearing approval rate in DC is 67.7 percent; one of the most favorable in the nation. However, this rate of approval is impacted by the issue of representation. Unrepresented individuals often have a much lower win ratio, which is why many ALJs (administrative law judges) will often give claimants who show up at hearings unrepresented the opportunity to reschedule their hearing so they may seek a suitable disability representative or disability lawyer to provide assistance on their claim.
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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