What if I go to a Social Security hearing without an Attorney or a Disability Representative?

There is no guarantee of winning a disability hearing with or without the presence of competent and experienced social security representative or attorney. Individuals who have been denied on their request for reconsideration (the first appeal which comes immediately after a denial on an initial disability application) and have now come to the point of having to submit their second appeal, a request for hearing before an administrative law judge, will simply need to decide if they would benefit from representation.

Can an unrepresented claimant win at a Social Security Disability hearing? Yes, and in fact statistics on disability hearing decisions in recent years have indicated that approximately forty percent of those claimants who go to their social security hearings by themselves will be approved for disability benefits.

However, claimants who go to disability hearings with representation provided by a disability lawyer or a non-attorney disability representative have been shown to have a sixty-two percent percent chance of being awarded disability benefits. This means representation increases the odds of being approved by at least fifty percent.

Claimants who appear at hearings unrepresented and win their benefits will most likely do so because the medical evidence supporting their case is fairly obvious. In many instances, it may be that the prior decisions reached by disability examiners (who worked on determining the application for disability and the request for reconsideration appeal) were faulty due to a misinterpretation of the medical evidence in the file.

In these instances, the claimant should never have been required to go to a disability hearing, or to wait so long before receiving Social Security Disability or SSI disability benefits.

Without representation, the majority of individuals appearing at disability hearings will be denied. With representation, more than 60 percent of individuals appearing at a social security hearing will be awarded benefits.

What accounts for the difference? There are many factors owing to this. There is the very simple fact that an unrepresented claimant will typically be unaware of:

A) How to interpret the information that is contained within their own disability file and

B) How to determine what additional information should be added to the file to make the case stronger.

This, of course, is where certain key knowledge areas tend to come in handy, such as a familiarity with social security regulations, operational procedures, and certainly the various rules that determine the outcome of a claim based on medical and vocational factors.

By rules, we mean the "grid", a set of medical-vocational guidelines that will direct a decision of disabled or not disabled based on factors such as the claimant's age, their level of functional restrictions, their work skill levels, and their level of education.

However, in addition to possessing a fair amount of knowledge as to how the federal disability benefit system operates, and why things happen the way that they do, individuals who provide disability representation perform tasks that optimize the chances of winning a claim.

Continued at Disability Laywers, Medical Records, and Social Security Hearings - Should you go to a Hearing alone?

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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