Hiring a Qualified Disability Lawyer in Tennessee
Claimants with representation in Tennessee 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 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.
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?"
Residents of Tennessee who are thinking of applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) or supplemental security income, a.k.a. SSI benefits should take some time to consider at what point, if any, they will consult with a disability lawyer. Only about a fourth of all disability applications filed with the Tennessee disability determination services agency are approved for benefits their first time through the system. The vast majority of applicants are denied disability benefits even if they meet the most basic Social Security Disability requirements, not only upon initial application, but also upon appeal (this first appeal is often referred to as a request for reconsideration).
If fact, only 7.9 % of disability appeals filed in Tennessee each year are successful'this grim statistic is well below the national average.
So, if you live in Tennessee, you are probably now wondering if it is even worth your time to file for SSD, and the answer to that, despite the low number of approvals, is yes. First of all, if you are suffering from a truly disabling, ongoing medical condition, you will most certainly find that at some point you will simply not be able to make ends meet. Your ability to work may have already suffered, and for this reason you should never give up on a claim if you think you will need assistance.
You should also keep in mind that, although disability determination services is not likely to grant you benefits, you do have an opportunity to file a second appeal, which is a request for a hearing before a federal administrative law judge. At this level, with good legal counsel, you stand a 60% chance of winning benefits. However, it is critical to the outcome of your case that you put your best foot forward at this hearing.
While it is true a disability judge is more likely than a disability examiner to award benefits, studies have shown that judges in disability cases tend to decide in the claimant's favor most often when he or she has legal representation. In fact, those represented by a disability lawyer are up to 50% more likely to prevail than those who represent themselves on Social Security Disability application.
If you are concerned about the expense involved in obtaining legal counsel, you should weigh in your mind the possible benefits of getting a disability attorney. An experienced attorney may be able to help you present a stronger case based on his or her knowledge of the disability system, and help you to gather stronger medical evidence to refute any weaknesses in you initial application that may have been used by the disability examiner as a basis for your denial.
He or she will also be used to presenting facts to a judge in a way that is both organized and well-presented'very few individuals can equal the knowledge of the disability and legal systems of a lawyer specializing in SSD/SSI cases, and so very few are able to advocate for themselves before a judge as well as an experienced attorney in these proceedings.
At any rate, the numbers indicate that getting a disability lawyer is likely to be worth the price in the end, when you are able to count on a monthly disability payment to help out in what is certain to be a time of financial need. In other words, an able lawyer may increase the chance of a Social Security Disability approval and reduce the chance of receiving a Social Security Disability denial letter.
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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