Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in Maryland
Claimants who are represented on disability claims in Maryland 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.
A qualified disability representative will have a knowledge of Social Security administrative law, particularly with regard to how 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 applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) or SSI benefits in Maryland you might be wondering if, or when you should get a disability lawyer to represent you in your case. It's certainly true that some disability applicants in Maryland win disability benefits fairly quickly and without ever retaining legal counsel.
However, this is not the norm, nor should you expect this to be the outcome in your case. In Maryland, only about a third of applications for disability are approved. Of course, if your claim is denied you can appeal this decision with the Maryland disability determination services agency; however keep in mind that only roughly 20% of reconsideration appeals filed in this state each year are successful.
So, the short answer is that, statistically speaking it will be in your best interest to retain a disability attorney at some point in the disability determination process. When you do so depends on you, and when you feel the need for assistance. No doubt filing for disability will require some work on your part'gathering the necessary medical records that must be submitted to the state of Maryland to prove your disability is daunting to some, and having a disability attorney can make this part of the process smoother.
Physicians are sometimes more prompt and willing to reply to requests for records when they come from an attorney, and of course your attorney can help to decide which records are necessary to prove your case, as well as take care of submitting them to the social security administration representative or disability examiner. Your attorney, should you choose to retain one early in the process, can also make sure that, if your case is denied, an appeal for reconsideration or review to the state disability agency is filed within the required 60-day deadline (if you miss this deadline your claim is automatically denied).
However, many individuals find that they are able to handle their own disability application and reconsideration appeal with little difficulty, and some disability lawyers will not even take a case until the reconsideration appeal has been denied, because they feel they cannot do much to help before this point. If your appeal has been denied, you have the option of filing a second disability appeal, which is a request for a hearing before a federal administrative law judge (ALJ).
It is strongly recommended that anyone scheduled to appear before a judge get a disability attorney to help you build a solid case for disability benefits. There have been multiple studies indicating that having a lawyer can have a significant, positive effect on the outcome of a disability case.
Simply put, judges are more likely to decide favorably in a case when it is presented by an attorney rather than by a disability claimant. While only 40 percent of disability cases in which claimants appear before an administrative law judge without legal representation are successful, more than 60 percent of disability applicants win benefits when they are represented by a lawyer specializing in SSD/SSI proceedings.
When should you contact a disability lawyer if you are filing a Social Security Disability or SSI claim in Maryland? The best answer to this question is that you should get a disability lawyer at any point in the disability determination process in which you feel that your case would be improved if you had a legal professional to advocate for you. For some this is at the outset, others at the level of first appeal, and for all others, before appearing at a hearing before a disability 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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