Although you do not need an attorney to file an application for disability benefits through Social Security Administration (SSA), there are number of reasons why you should consider doing so. Here, we discuss the merits of hiring an attorney to represent you and at which point during the disability process you should consult with one.
As a general rule, it is better to hire an attorney as soon as possible in the disability process. Disability attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means that they only get paid if you are approved for benefits. Therefore, they are extremely motivated to make sure you win your claim and will not take your case if they do not think you will be found eligible.
If you have not submitted your application for disability benefits, consider hiring an experienced attorney before you do. Although the application may seem like a bunch of forms, completing them comprehensively and accurately can be difficult. Attorneys understand the language used on the forms and can help you describe your condition and how it affects your ability to work in a way that makes your eligibility clear and not the subject of debate.
In order to submit a thorough application, you will need to assemble a great deal of medical records, personal information, and other paperwork, which can be difficult to track down and prepare. Your attorney will be able to gather everything necessary to present your claim and go over it before you submit it to SSA to detect any mistakes you might have made or inconsistencies that could disqualify you from receiving benefits.
Unfortunately, approximately 65% of applications are initially denied. The good news is, studies show that hiring an attorney can make it three times more likely that you will ultimately be approved. If you did not have an attorney when you first submitted your application, you should definitely consider hiring one to assist you with your appeal, since that is when you have the best chance of being approved.
First, SSA has extremely strict deadlines, and if you miss the narrow, 60-day window to appeal your initial denial, you will have to start all over again. Your attorney will make sure that you do not miss crucial deadlines.
Next, your denial letter will explain the reasons why you were not approved for benefits. Your attorney can cut through the legalese and explain what happened. If SSA said that you did not provide sufficient medical evidence to prove your disability, your attorney can track down your doctors for updated medical records or obtain statements from former employers or friends that explain how your disability keeps you from working.
Furthermore, your attorney can help you prepare for your hearing and testimony in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) so that you feel comfortable with the process and are not blindsided by any questions. Effective testimony will help the ALJ better understand your situation and make your eligibility for benefits obvious.
As mentioned earlier, disability attorneys only get paid if you win your case. You have nothing to lose by calling an experienced attorney for a free consultation. He or she can give you a professional opinion on the strength of your case and start helping you immediately if you both decide to pursue a claim.