Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in New York
Claimants who are represented on disability claims in New York 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?"
In the state of New York, as in all other states across the nation, it is no easy task to win Social Security Disability (SSD) or supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. The majority of all disability applications filed in New York, about 62 percent, were denied in recent years, and statistics were positively grim for those who appealed the decision to the state disability determination services (DDS) agency: only 16 percent of first appeals, or requests for reconsideration, filed in New York were approved.
Given these statistics, should individuals filing for disability retain a disability attorney, and if so, when? Well, there are cases in New York in which disability cases are approved within three to four months of the initial application, without any disability help from attorneys or non-attorney representatives (a non-attorney representative is someone, often a former employee of the social security administration, who, though not an attorney, is qualified to advocate for disability applicants). However, as stated previously, these cases are in the minority.
Getting a disability lawyer does not, of course, ensure that you will win your case. However, statistics have shown that those with legal representation are more likely to win SSD or SSI benefits, particularly if their case winds up before a federal administrative law judge. Many people filing for disability in New York never consider the possibility that they will reach this point, but the fact is that most cases are not approved by DDS, and must be taken to the second level of appeal, which is to request a hearing before a disability judge.
This hearing is the very best chance New York disability claimants have of winning benefits, and having some form of legal representation at this level of appeal could mean the difference between winning and losing, i.e. qualifying for disability.
Therefore, if you are filing for SSD or SSI in New York, you should start planning, at the outset, at what point you will retain a New York disability lawyer for your case, because it could make a difference in whether or not you qualify for disability. Some individuals will feel more secure if they have a consultation even before filing their claim, some will consider it only when their claim is denied and they must file an appeal with DDS'it's really up to the level of comfort an individual has with the disability process, and how well they are able to present their case.
However, at the second appeal, anyone who decides to apply for Social Security Disability or apply for disability from SSI is strongly advised to retain legal counsel.
Note: The request for reconsideration appeal step is currently suspended in the state of New York as New York 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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