Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in South Carolina
Claimants with representation in South Carolina tend to be approved in higher percentages, have a need for fewer appeals, and more favorable "dates of onset" (the date the disability is proven to have begun) which can result in a higher payment Social Security Disability and/or SSI disability 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.
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?"
At what point, if any, should those filing for Social Security Disability (SSD) or supplemental security income (SSI) benefits in South Carolina consult with a disability lawyer? The answer to this question varies according to the individual, but in general there are three sets of circumstances in which you should consider getting a lawyer in South Carolina if you wish to claim disability:
1. Is your disability claim fairly straightforward, or is your condition one that is less clearly defined, or one that you think may be denied disability? If your medical condition is one that is not overtly apparent, or one that is listed in the Social Security Administration (SSA) book of impairments (commonly referred to as the 'blue book), then you will most likely be relying on medical records to help define both your condition and its symptoms, as well as to prove how this inhibits you from earning a living wage.
Examples of such cases include chronic fatigue syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, etc. In these types of cases there can be a lot of paperwork and going back and forth between the disability examiner and the applicant.
2. If you think you could benefit from having a lawyer handle your case, or if your condition inhibits your ability to gather the necessary information, then by all means consult an experienced disability attorney sooner rather than later.
From the moment it is notified that you have legal representation, the social security administration is obligated to keep your lawyer informed as to the status of your case. A good lawyer will make sure that all of your paperwork is filed on time, that the disability examiner gets the medical records needed to render a decision, and that any disability appeals are automatically submitted within the designated timeframe.
Retaining a lawyer early in the disability process will also allow him or her to begin formulating a strong case and convincing argument for approval at from the outset should your case (like most in South Carolina) be turned down by the state disability examiner, and subsequently be scheduled for an administrative hearing.
3. If you have already applied for SSD or SSI benefits in South Carolina, has your initial claim been denied? If so, you may want to think about getting a disability lawyer to handle your request for reconsideration appeal. Almost 80 percent of all reconsideration appeals are denied'an experienced disability attorney may be able to spot weaknesses in your initial claim, or may be able to suggest other medical exams or evaluations that could be performed to strengthen your case.
4. Have both your initial claim and your first appeal, review or reconsideration, been denied by the state disability determination services agency? If so, it is definitely advisable to retain legal counsel. This is because the next appeal will be considered by a federal administrative law judge at hearing, and statistics have shown that disability judges are significantly more likely to grant disability benefits to claimants when their case is presented by an attorney.
Individuals who are represented by an attorney at their disability hearing win benefits 60 percent of the time'only four out of 10 applicants that choose to represent themselves before the judge are successful. At any rate, due to backlogs in the disability system in South Carolina and across the nation, it could take up to a year to have your case before a judge'after that long wait, it's smart not to take any chances with the outcome.
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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