Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in Illinois
There's very little question that representation can make a difference on an SSDI or SSI claim. Claimants who are represented on disability claims in Illinois tend to have a higher rate of approval, a need for fewer appeals, and more favorable "dates of onset" (the date the disability is proven to have begun) that lead to higher back pay benefits.
Representation may be through a disability lawyer or a specialized non-attorney disability representative. Many non-attorney reps are former Social Security Administration Claims Specialists and Disability Examiners with an extended history of working from within the federal system.
1. Questions about using a disability lawyer
2. More questions and answers about disability lawyers
A qualified disability representative will have a knowledge of Social Security administrative law, particularly with regard to how SSDI and SSI claims are approved through the Social Security listings and the medical vocational grid rules. A qualified and competent disability 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?"
If you are filing for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits in Illinois, it is highly likely that your case will ultimately be decided by an administrative judge. This is because the majority of disability cases filed in Illinois are turned down by disability determination services, both at the initial applications level and the first level of appeal (also called a request for reconsideration). Statistics released for Illinois by the federal office of disability programs are somewhat disconcerting: 62.2 percent of initial disability applications filed in Illinois were denied over the past two years, and the news was even worse for those who appealed their decisions, who were denied a whopping 87.1% of the time.
These numbers should not deter disabled individuals in Illinois from filing for SSD or SSI benefits, but should prepare them for the reality that it is neither easy nor certain for an individual, regardless of their medical condition, to be awarded disability benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The simple fact is that most claims for disability, in Illinois and in every state across the nation, are denied by disability determination services. That means that most claimants will have to appeal their case to the next level of consideration, which involves an administrative hearing before a disability law judge. Should those filing for disability in Illinois be represented by an attorney at this hearing?
In this instance, the answer is almost certainly yes. A number of studies have indicated that cases that are presented to an administrative law judge by a disability lawyer have about a 50% greater chance of winning than those in which the claimants represent themselves.
It is true that some cases are approved by disability determination services upon their initial application, and that some claimants do receive benefits without ever having received legal counsel of any kind.
These cases, however, are in the minority. If you are filing for disability in Illinois and your initial application is turned down, the odds are great that your case is not persuasive enough to convince a state disability examiner, and you should strongly consider hiring an experienced disability attorney to help you build your case and present the strongest possible argument at your second appeal before an administrative judge.
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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