Using a Disability Attorney in Texas

Claimants who have Social Security representation in Texas tend to have a higher likelihood of being approved, generally need to file fewer appeals, and often have more favorable "dates of onset" (the date the disability is proven to have begun) resulting in higher amounts in back pay benefits.

Link: Questions about using attorneys and representatives on disability claims

Representation on a claim may be provided by a disability lawyer or a specialized non-attorney disability representative. Many non-attorney disability representatives are former Social Security Administration field office Claims Specialists and DDS (disability determination services) Disability Examiners.

A qualified representative will possess a knowledge of Social Security administrative law and procedures. This is especially true 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.

Common questions about filing for disability in Texas
What will a disability attorney or non-attorney representative do to win a case? Representatives perform many functions such as filing timely appeals, keeping track of the status of a claim, responding to requests from the Social Security Administration for additional information (such as regarding the claimant's daily activities, their medical treatment sources, and their work history), and sending out reminders to claimants about consultative medical examinations that have been scheduled for them.

However, what a representative does to win a claim is essentially the following:

1) Analyze the history of the claim, i.e. why and how it was previously denied.

2) Obtain relevant, current, and compelling evidence (which is usually medical in nature but may also be vocational, or work, related), and

3) Present a basis for approval of the claim according to Social Security regulations (the code of federal regulations), Social Security rules (the grid framework rules), and the various SSRs (social security court rulings).

To learn about fees for representation, see: "How do disability lawyers get paid?"

Additional information

In prior years, the federal government has reported that less than forty percent of claims for Social Security Disability (SSD) and supplemental security income (SSI) filed in Texas have been approved by DDS, the state disability determination services agency that makes decisions for SSA. In a recent period, only 33 percent of disability applications were approved, making it necessary for nearly 70 percent of claimants to begin the appeal process.

Those who filed their first appeal were even less successful--less than twenty percent of requests for reconsideration filed in Texas were approved. In a recent period, in fact, approvals at the reconsideration level were only 12 percent, which, statistically, is in line with the rest of the country.

Given these numbers, if are thinking about filing for SSD or SSI benefits in Texas, it may be worthwhile to seek consultation about your claim early on. It can be helpful to get an attorney or representative involved after your application has been denied because they may be able to spot weaknesses or omissions in the original information you supplied, and help provide a fresh slant on your case before the reconsideration process with a new disability examiner begins.

Your lawyer can also ensure that appeals that you intend to file are received at the Social Security Office before the 60-day deadline is up, which is very important: Appeals not filed within the deadline are automatically denied, giving you no choice by to start over with a new claim, putting you several months behind in this already time-consuming process, but also potentially eliminating some of your eligibility for disability back pay (due to starting over with a new filing date)

While it is true that some disability lawyers will not take a case until it has been denied by a state disability examiner, due to disability claim backlogs more lawyers and non-attorney disability representatives are increasingly taking claims prior to a denial being issued.

And, in many instances, representatives are able to make strong attempts to win claims as early in the process as possible. When this occurs, the need for a hearing may be eliminated, saving many months of case processing time and allowing claimants to receive their benefits much sooner.

Having said this, if your initial claim for disability has already been denied, it is still unlikely that you will win disability benefits from a reconsideration appeal. However, this still presents an argument for obtaining representation, simply because the second appeal in the process is the "request for hearing before an Administrative law judge".

Studies have shown that individuals who appeal a disability claim denial and appear before a disability judge stand a greater than 60 percent chance of being approved, if they are represented by a disability lawyer, whereas unrepresented claimants have an average approval rate of approximately 40 percent.

Clearly, this level of consideration offers the best odds of winning benefits for those filing for disability in Texas and applicants are strongly advised to get a disability lawyer or non-attorney disability representative at this point if they haven't already.

Those represented before federal disability judges by an attorney simply win benefits significantly more often than those who appear with no legal representation. Judges at hearings, in fact, will often advise claimants who arrive unrepresented that they may have their hearing date rescheduled if they would like to take the opportunity to seek representation.

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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