Why do I need an attorney for Social Security Disability?
Some would say that you can take care of your own the application for disability). Is this a problem? For all intents and purposes, it is not as long as you file your reconsideration request within the sixty day appeal period. Certainly, you should get started on the appeal as soon as your claim is denied.
Many individuals procrastinate and, despite the fact that SSA allows a sixty day appeal period, actually miss their deadline for submitting an appeal. When that happens, if the claimant cannot demonstrate "good cause" for a late appeal filing (in general terms, a rationale reason for a late submission which might include a medical or family emergency, or simply not having received the notice of denial in the mail and, thus, not having even been made aware of the need for an appeal), they will be forced start over with a new claim.
However, the real reason for possbily going without representation on the first appeal, i.e. the request for reconsideration, is two-fold:
1. There is often little for a disability attorney or disability representative to do on a reconsideration appeal (reconsiderations are the first appeal). The reconsideration phase is really just a rehashing of the initial disability application. Meaning that the process is identical, only handled by a different disability claim examiner, and the process is usually much shorter since most of the medical evidence that is required for the claim has already been gathered.
Having said this, though, there are a number of good disability attorneys and non-attorney claimant's representatives who strongly endeavor to win claims that are being processed at the reconsideration appeal level. And, for this reason, early representation can make a valuable difference, especially considering the fact that more than 80 percent of all reconsideration appeals are denied by disability examiners.
2. The reconsideration denial rate is absurdly high. So high, in fact, that many individuals simply assume that the reconsideration will be denied and, thus, expend very little effort on trying to win the reconsideration. It is true that reconsiderations are generally denied at a rate of between 85-87 percent.
However, this still allows some chance of being awarded benefits. It is also more likely for well-prepared cases to be won at this level. And this is where able representation can make the difference. There are a number of representatives, attorney or otherwise, who make every attempt to win cases at this level because they are full aware of the hardships that will be endured by claimants who are forced to file a request for a disability hearing and then wait many months for that hearing to be scheduled.
As was said several times, the chances of being approved on the first appeal, the reconsideration, are faily slim. The chances of being approved, however, on a disability hearing can be quite good. And this, by itself, should give every claimant full reason to follow the appeals process, so that eventually their case will be heard by an ALJ, or administrative law judge.
Why are claims more likely to be won by a claimant who has representation at a disability hearing? Social Security representatives have knowledge of the rules and regulations that govern Social Security Disability and SSI.
In addition to having an expertise with the disability system, your representative does not have the emotional investment that you have in your disability claim; consequently your representative or attorney will be able to give an organized presentation of the facts of your disability claim -- your medical background, your condition and how it limits you, your work history, and the reasons why your condition limits your ability to work.
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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