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Should I Appeal my Social Security Disability Denial in Illinois, or get a Lawyer First?

Opinions vary widely on these issues. I've heard, and read, plenty of people make the argument that representation is unnecessary. However, if I had to file for disability, knowing what I know about the disability system, as a former disability examiner and having worked in representation, I would not represent myself on a claim.

And, if I had a friend or relative who was filing for disability in Illinois, I would advise them to get representation immediately after being denied on a claim, and certainly if the denial occurred at the reconsideration appeal level (because the next step is to request a disability hearing and at a hearing you absolutely want representation).

Further, and this is just my own preference, I would advise anyone who was denied on a reconsideration to get representation. Why? Because the odds of winning at recon are fairly limited.

Here's one mistake that I've seen time and time again. A claimant who files for disability benefits with the social security administration gets denied and decides to find a disability representative (either a lawyer or a non-attorney claimant's representative). Weeks later, right as the deadline to appeal very closely approaches, they finally sign on with a representative (literally, by signing a fee agreement and a 1696--SSA form 1696--to designate a representative), fully expecting that the representative should handle everything without exception.

Where's the mistake in this scenario? Actually, there's several. First of all, if you need to appeal, you should always do so immediately to avoid adding more total processing time to your case. In other words, just because SSA gives you two months to appeal, that doesn't mean you should actually consume that length of time as doing so serves no purpose and is probably financially damaging to you.

Secondly, if you plan to get representation following a disability denial, you should do so immediately. Why? Because your prospective representative, whoever that may be, will not be able to submit an appeal on your behalf without having signed paperwork from you. And by that, I mean the aforementioned appointment of representative form, a signed fee agreement, as well as signed medical releases (typically SSA-827 releases that will be used by social security and the representative's own in-house release forms).

If you contact your prospective rep too late, it may be the case that the representative may be forced to advise you to file your appeal on your own...simply because they don't have a signed 1696 and fee agreement from you and the deadline to appeal is dangerously close.

So, should you get you appeal your SSD denial, or get a lawyer first? Well, if you plan to get a representative, do this first and do it immediately following a denial so the representative can file the appeal for you. However, if for some reason you are having trouble either getting a representative, or deciding on which one to use, file your appeal yourself to avoid wasting valuable time, and then get representation.


1. How long does it take to get a disability hearing scheduled?
2. How long does it take to get a disability hearing?
3. How long does it take to get a decision after a disability hearing?
4. How to get a disability hearing scheduled faster?
5. Getting a faster disability hearing scheduled
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7. Disability hearing decision timeframe
8. ALJ disability hearing decisions
9. What to expect at a disability hearing
10. What happens when you go to a disability hearing?
11. After a disability hearing, what happens?

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For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.