Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in Michigan
Claimants who are represented on disability claims in Michigan 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?"
At what point in the process should a Social Security Disability (SSD) or supplemental security income (SSI) applicant in Michigan consult an attorney? Does anyone really need the services of a disability lawyer, and if so, when is the best time to get one involved? The answer to these questions really depends upon the circumstances surrounding each claim, as well as the individual involved.
For instance, some claims are so straightforward they will most likely be immediately approved for benefits by a disability examiner. Individuals have been diagnosed with severe loss of vision, paralysis, debilitating seizure disorders, etc., or those with symptoms that clearly fit a condition listed in the social security administration impairment manual (called the blue book), are likely be approved for benefits fairly quickly and in such cases there may be no need for legal counsel.
However, the majority of disability claimants do not fit neatly into criteria listed in the blue book, and must rely on medical records to convince a disability examiner that they are too disabled to earn a living. For some individuals, the task of gathering all the medical records and work history information to present to the examiner may prove too great, especially when they are already coping with symptoms associated with their condition. They may not be in a place, physically or mentally, in which they are able to stay on top of things.
These individuals should consider retaining a disability lawyer as soon as possible. In Michigan, as soon as the social security administration is informed that a claimant has legal representation in a disability matter, they are required to keep the legal representative informed of the status of the case.
This takes a lot of the weight off the shoulders of the claimant, because their legal representative will deal directly with Social Security Disability services and ensure that everything is in order, as well as file an appeal well within the 60-day deadline should the initial claim be denied (it's important not to miss this deadline, because if you do, you have to start all over again with a new claim).
Some claimants find that they are able to provide all the necessary medical and work history information to disability determination services with little difficulty, and will not need a lawyer to help them stay on task.
However, anyone in Michigan who has had both their initial disability claim and reconsideration appeal denied by a state disability examiner should strongly consider legal representation, because the next step in the process involves a hearing before an administrative law judge.
In Michigan, your chances of winning disability benefits from an administrative judge are significantly greater when you have legal representation of some kind.
An experienced disability lawyer or non attorney claimant's representative (non-attorney reps are often former SSA representatives of state disability examiners) can mean the difference between approval or disapproval of your claim, and given that it can take over a year to get your case heard (backlogs exist in the disability system in Michigan and just about every other state) you definitely do not want to leave anything to chance when you finally do appear before a federal judge.
Note: The request for reconsideration appeal step is currently suspended in the state of Michigan as Michigan is one of 10 prototype states testing a system in which denied claims move immediately to the hearing level upon appeal. Reconsideration may be reinstated at some point and many consider this likely. In the meantime, a claimant who is denied on a disability application should request, and prepare, for a hearing before a federal administrative law 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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