Filing a Social Security disability claim is often a long and complicated process. But hiring a knowledgeable social security disability attorney to fight on your behalf can make all the difference. The right lawyer can both increase the chance of achieving a successful outcome, as well as keep the process from becoming unnecessarily prolonged. Here are three keys to finding the right social security disability lawyer for you.
Look for an Experienced Social Security Disability Claim Attorney
Experience is the first and most important quality in a social security disability attorney. Look for an attorney who has handled hundreds, if not, thousands, of Social Security disability claims. By doing that, you’ll ensure that you have someone representing you who is intimately familiar with the disability process.
A lawyer with substantial experience will understand the nuances of social security law, the hearings and appeals process, and the preferences of different Administrative Law Judges. They’ll also know how to cross-examine medical experts effectively, and how certain medical conditions, age, and work experience affect your claim.
Be sure to ask a potential lawyer how many disability claims they’ve handled and whether they’ve dealt with any cases with facts similar to yours. If they have case studies on their site, examine those to see the type of cases they spotlight and the outcomes they’ve achieved.
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Investigate their Reputation for Social Security Disability Claims
Thanks to the internet, you have ample opportunities to investigate potential Social Security Disability Lawyers before hiring them. Most attorneys have testimonials or reviews on their sites, but you can also check out third-party websites such as Avvo to see what other people have had to say. You should also ask the attorney whether they can give you the name of a former client who would be willing to share their experience with you.
Determine Whether the Social Security Disability Lawyer is a Good Fit
When you meet with a potential social security disability lawyer, consider their personality and professional style. Good lawyers provide straight, honest answers in clear language–and will never guarantee a specific result. They should also respect your time, listen carefully, and display a solid understanding of your concerns and goals.
During your initial interview, ask questions that help get to the root of these issues: Are they upfront about their fees and billing schedule? Will you be working with the attorney you’re meeting with or another person? Is that person a lawyer? Does the firm have a policy for returning calls and emails promptly? Do you feel comfortable with the lawyer?
If the lawyer scores high in each of these three areas, you’re likely to have found the right lawyer to fight for your disability claim.
Do I Really Need a Social Security Disability Attorney to Get Benefits?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not require you to have a lawyer to file for disability claims. Tens of thousands of people file for benefits without a lawyer every year.
That said, filing for disability benefits involves much more than filling out a few simple forms. You will need to collect and submit numerous documents proving your disability, from assorted medical records to financial records and pay stubs. Moreover, you must assemble and present this information in a manner that will be coherent and compelling to the SSA. If the SSA denied your first application attempt– as it does approximately 70 percent of all applications–you would also need to figure out how to appeal your case.
Hiring a lawyer to assist you with your disability benefit application can save you enormous time and frustration. A survey by NOLO showed that disability applicants who hired a lawyer were nearly twice as likely to receive benefits as those who filed a claim by themselves. How can a social security disability lawyer help? Let’s take a look.
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What Does a Social Security Disability Lawyer Do?
Social Security Disability Benefits Lawyers can step in and assist you at any point in the process, whether in the initial application stage or at a final appeal. Here are just some of the benefits of having a lawyer.
Social Security Disability Lawyers Help You Collect Your Evidence
The SSA frequently denies applications because the applicant failed to provide adequate proof of their disability. According to the SSA, you will be considered disabled and eligible for benefits only if your medical issues prevent you from engaging in any “substantial gainful activity” for at least twelve months or if medical professionals expect the disability to result in death. If you do not provide substantial evidence of each element of this definition, the SSA will deny your claim.
To prove your claim, you will have to provide extensive documentation of your medical issues and hard evidence that your disability prevents you from working. Your primary care physician will have most of the relevant medical documents, but you’ll have to ensure that they provide the right ones. The records should show not only medical evidence of your disability but how disability impacts your ability to work. Among other things, you’ll need to collect doctors’ diagnoses and statements, records of tests and surgeries, treatments, and more.
An experienced disability claims lawyer will know the kind of documents and evidence you’ll need to create a persuasive application. Your lawyer can advise you on the necessary evidence that is missing from your file or recommend additional documents that would strengthen your claim. Such insights and advice can save you valuable time, as the SSA will deny your application if you are missing key documents.
A Social Security Disability Lawyer Builds a Persuasive Disability Claim
A disability benefits lawyer can also help you to present all the evidence and fashion your claim in the strongest light. They can spot and explain inconsistencies in your story and rationalize harmful details that might cause an SSA officer to deny your claim.
Moreover, experienced lawyers know how to use specific language and special terms that the SSA itself uses, which can help them to see more clearly how your disability meets the government definition. This insider knowledge is especially crucial for applicants who have a disability that isn’t included on the SSA’s “Blue Book” impairment list. A good lawyer can help show that your disability is of equivalent severity to any listed in the Blue Book and similarly limits your ability to work.
Social Security Disability Attorneys Help You Appeal a Denial
If the SSA denies your application, an experienced social security disability claim lawyer can help you formulate an appeal. Almost 50 percent of all applicants win disability benefits on appeal. Still, according to surveys by both the SSA and NOLO, your chance of winning can be two to three times higher if a disability claims lawyer represents you.
Social security disability claim appeals have four levels: Reconsideration, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearings, Appeals Council, and Federal Court. Your lawyer can play a critical role in all four stages.
A Social Security Disability Lawyer Will Request Reconsideration
Reconsideration is when you request your state’s Disability Determination Services department to review the file submitted to the SSA. You are allowed to update your medical records for a Reconsideration but can’t make additional arguments. If you didn’t use a Social Security Disability lawyer on your first attempt, a disability lawyer can review your file and ensure that your records are up-to-date and that you haven’t left out anything important. Only about 13 percent of Reconsideration appeals are successful.
Administrative Law Judge Disability Hearings
ALJ hearings offer your best chance of winning benefits after the SSA denies your application. The hearing’s purpose is to give the judge a fresh look at all the evidence and listen to testimony from you and other witnesses. Such witnesses may include a Vocational Expert (VE), an SSA-appointed person with expertise in the labor market conditions and trends and jobs skill requirements, a medical expert, and any witnesses on your behalf.
To prepare for the hearing, your lawyer will review your file and help you collect any new or additional medical evidence that will help strengthen your case. Your lawyer will also help you practice your testimony. During the hearing, you will have to answer questions about your disability, work history, and how your limitations prevent you from working. Your lawyer will coach you on the best way to present your story, speak compellingly, and explain facts that work against you.
One of the most crucial roles a disability claims attorney plays in the hearings is cross-examining the VE. The VE is there to answer the ALJ’s questions about your ability to work and possible jobs that you could do. If the VE believes that you are capable of working, despite your disability, your lawyer has the task of weakening the VE’s argument and persuading the judge that you are not capable of working.
Social Security Disability Appeals Council
If the ALJ denies benefits, you can appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council chooses to review your case, it will only review whether the ALJ’s followed proper procedure and correctly considered the evidence. If you didn’t have a lawyer at the ALJ hearing stage, it’s essential to seek legal help here. A lawyer can review your file and help you formulate arguments for the appeal.
Appeals to United States District Court
If the Appeals Council decides against hearing your case or upholds the ALJ’s decision, you may appeal to federal court. As arguing your case in federal court involves complex legal arguments, having a lawyer is critical.
Social Security Claim Lawyer Free Consultation
Let an experienced Social Security Disability Claim Lawyer at Underwood Law Office help you with your case. We have handled many decades of social security cases. Our social security lawyers can help you with your claim.
Social Security Disability Claim Attorney McKinney TX
Our McKinney Social Security Disability Attorneys serve all of DFW, including Allen, Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Collin County, and the entire State of Texas.
Social Security Disability Claim Lawyer Huntington WV
In West Virginia, our Huntington, West Virginia attorney office represents clients across the entire state. For both offices, call our toll-free number 844.UNDERWOOD (844.863.3796) for a free consultation.