Is the Disability Process Faster in Florida if you have a Lawyer?
Having a disability lawyer or a non-attorney claimant's representative at the initial disability claim level generally does not make the disability process in Florida go any faster in and of itself. Typically, however, representation on a case saves a claimant from wasting considerable time in the following scenarios:
A) The disabled individual is not able to complete the disability application and return the necessary forms.
B) The individual misses their appeal deadline following the receipt of a denial notice.
C) The individual, following the receipt of a denial, confuses filing a new disability application with the filing of an appeal (Yes, many people seem to think that filing a new claim is synonymous with filing an appeal and following through on this misunderstanding only has the effect of wasting months of valuable time--more valuable, of course, if lost wages are putting one's home in jeopardy).
Advantages of representation
If you have memory problems or a mental condition that might prevent you from providing information or returning forms timely, or you simply feel overwhelmed after being denied for disability and, for that reason, may be likely to miss an appeal deadline, then you may want to consider getting a lawyer or non-attorney rep to help you with your disability application and claim.
Most disability applicants probably consider getting a lawyer if their initial disability claim is denied. Some decide at that point to seek representation, while others decide to wait and see whether or not their reconsideration appeal will be denied as well (85-87 percent of reconsiderations are turned down). For those who get a lawyer or a non-attorney, how useful is representation at that point?
Here is a common viewpoint:
Unfortunately, other than completing your reconsideration appeal timely, having the services of a lawyer does not make your reconsideration appeal get processed faster. Typically a lawyer just makes sure that your disability claim can move to the next appeal level, which any claimant can on their very own.
Is this true? Largely, yes. In very many instances, when a case is represented at the "next step" (this is the request for reconsideration level, which is the available appeal) there is often little that will be done by a disability attorney other than conducting status checks, filing the reconsideration appeal, and waiting for a decision after the reconsideration has been initiated.
However, having said this, there are claimants who do not seek representation at this point and then either--
A) Fail to submit their request for reconsideration within the given time period (which is a very generous 65 days from the date of the denial, but, amazingly, many claimants miss this deadline).
B) Do not submit an appeal, but, instead, file a new claim. As we've stated, this is usually a waste of time (note: not just a waste of time, but an incredibly unproductive use of one's very valuable time).
C) Simply give up on the process altogether. Speaking from the standpoint of statistical outcomes for those who persevere and continue with filing appeals, giving up is a very bad choice. The majority of claimants who persevere will eventually be approved for disability benefits and receive a Social Security Disability award letter.
When to seek representation
So, should you seek representation after your disability application has been denied? Or do you wait until your first appeal, the reconsideration, has been denied and you are in the position of having to make a request for a disability hearing, where you should undeniably consider getting a representative?. Note: At the hearing level, it is really just ludicrous and short-sighted to attempt to go it alone; going before a federally appointed judge without the benefit of representation will, for many claimants, dramatically diminish the chances of winning disability benefits.
My take on it is this: Most claimants will be fine in waiting to see if they receive a denial on their first appeal before speaking to a disability attorney. Having said this, though, some attorneys do make a concentrated effort to win claims at the first appeal level; therefore skipping representation may amount to potentially giving up some advantage (I say "potentially" because a good percentage of attorneys make zero effort to do anything to win a case at the reconsideration level).
Also, the likelihood is that if a person is denied on their application for disability, they will most likely be denied on the social security reconsideration, so it isn't necessarily a bad idea to become represented at the point where the reconsideration appeal needs to be filed, and many claimants do exactly this.
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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