Why do I need a disability lawyer to file for Social Security disability benefits?
If I file a claim for disability benefits do my chances improve with the assistance of an experienced disability lawyer?
Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
Filing for Social Security Disability benefits is a complicated and time-consuming process. Many applicants do not fill out the application correctly or fail to submit the proper medical documentation.
The SSA definition of disability is strict and an individual must have at least one condition that satisfies that definition of disability:
“To meet our definition of disability, you must not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment(s):
- That is expected to result in death, or
- That has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”
Claims that meet the SSA’s Bluebook Listing of Impairments will be approved.
Not all disabling conditions fall under the Bluebook Listings, however.You can also be approved based on other factors. Some conditions cause functional limitations that affect a person’s ability to work. Age, education, and past relevant work are also a factor. It gets complicated and having an experienced attorney is invaluable.
Those proportions are now changing and more people are qualifying for SSDI based on functional capacity and vocational factors while fewer are qualifying under impairments.
As a result of improved medical treatments, it is no longer assumed that a person who qualified under an impairment listing is disabled, and more claims involve a mental impairment or combined physical and mental impairments, which are difficult to adjudicate.
Individuals with disabilities can also face other challenges when applying for SSDI benefits including:
- They may not be able to read and/or write.
- They may not speak English.
- They may not have access to a computer.
- There are few registered Social Security offices.
- They may have physical limitations.
- They may not understand why their claim has been denied and do not know whether or not to appeal.
Many people with disabilities find the applications difficult to complete and file.
Initial claims are denied for any number of reasons but most common are:
- Lack of sufficient evidence of disability.
- Paperwork errors.
- Procedural issues.
It is possible to be awarded disability benefits without hiring an attorney.
Most applicants complete and submit the initial application on their own. Usually applicants will hire an attorney at the appeals stage, but it’s not mandatory. Even if you are required to go to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge, you can choose to represent yourself. However, there are many reasons why this is not a recommended choice and there are several important benefits to having a professional advocate at your side during this long and highly important process.
The Social Security Administration says well over half (nearly two-thirds) of initial claims for Social Security Disability Insurance are denied.
Further, three quarters of individuals applying for both disability insurance and Supplement Security Income are denied. Most claims are denied because they are incomplete, contain errors, or don’t provide enough evidence to support the claim. The application process is long, tedious and confusing. Applicants often miss important details, leave sections incomplete, or simply don’t provide enough information. An insufficient work history or a lack of complete, coherent medical records are among the most common reasons claims are denied. An experienced disability lawyer can present your strongest claim possible at a critical moment in your life.
Some applicants are not aware that most claims are denied.
If you have been denied, don’t give up. Believe in your claim. Most legitimate cases are eventually approved- as long as the applicant remains persistent and keeps appealing. It can be difficult to deal with the appeals process alone, especially while dealing with the medical and financial problems that accompany disability. It is for this reason that many applicants choose to hire professional representation; having a lawyer by your side through the appeals processes and through administrative hearings greatly increases your odds of success. Having an advocate by your side can be invaluable in such an intimidating process. No lawyer can guarantee your claim will succeed, but hiring an attorney will significantly increase the odds of your claim being awarded.
There are many benefits to hiring a disability attorney.
Statistics show that an applicant who is represented by legal counsel is more likely to have their claim approved and that the process takes less time. How exactly does a disability attorney improve an applicant’s chances for approval of a claim?
Disability attorneys are experienced in the entire process of filing for Social Security disability benefits.
The initial paperwork is long and requires detailed information about the applicant’s medical condition, education, work history, limitations and capabilities. An attorney can guide you in presenting your case in the most favorable manner so that your claim will be approved or they can complete the paperwork for you.
If you are attempting to apply for disability benefits we can help. Most applications are denied initially. We work to improve your chances of a favorable judgement by making sure all your information is present and correct. We know what the SSA is looking for. If we feel you don’t need an attorney we will tell you. If you have been denied disability benefits don’t give up! Contact a Disability lawyer at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and get the benefits you deserve.
If a disability claim is not approved on initial application, the claimant will have to go through the appeals process.
Though legal representation is not required, appearing at a court hearing before an administrative law judge without an attorney can hurt an applicant’s chance of success. If you represent yourself and lose, you may have to reapply all over again. Disability attorneys are experts in the reconsideration and appeals process; a disability attorney can craft your case to reverse a denial and present your case to the ALJ.
- Disability attorneys are thoroughly experienced in Social Security’s filing and appeal requirements and will not miss a deadline.
- Disability attorneys understand the medical evidence needed to prove an applicant is disabled and gain approval of a claim. They can determine if your medical condition meets the criteria of an impairment listing in the Social Security Bluebook or provide evidence that you are disabled even though your medical condition does not meet any listing’s requirements. They will review a claimant’s file and determine if any other tests are necessary as well as ensure that irrelevant information is not submitted. An administrative law judge may become frustrated if they have to read through many pages of information that is not important to the claim.
- Disability attorneys are skilled at communicating with doctors and other medical providers. Some doctors may be unwilling to assist claimants because they are unfamiliar with the filing process, too busy to fill out forms or have personal opinions about SSDI in general that make them reluctant to assist. A disability attorney can address their concerns in a professional manner.
- Disability attorneys are familiar with the administrative law judges and know how they conduct hearings. A disability attorney can draft legal documents summarizing your case and may even get a claim approved “on the record” (a decision approved without a hearing).
- Disability attorneys know how to handle “bad facts.” A bad fact is any information that might harm an applicant’s case, such as a doctor’s opinion that an applicant is not disabled or that an applicant failed to follow a treatment plan consistently. A disability attorney can minimize the damaging impact of any such information.
- Disability attorneys will cross examine a vocational expert and can counter any negative testimony a vocational expert offers. This requires a complex understanding of different jobs and job skills and how they are categorized.
- Disability attorneys prepare their clients for cross-examination by the administrative law judge. An administrative law judge might ask questions regarding:
- whether an applicant is being truthful about their condition;
- the extent to which the applicant is affected by the impairment;
- any reasons for inconsistencies in the applicant’s medical records;
- the success or failure of certain treatments; and
- the applicant’s work history.
- A disability attorney can clarify the applicant’s testimony by asking them questions to help the applicant explain their condition and how it affects them;
- Disability attorneys know which arguments will win a case, such as:
- the applicant’s medical condition meets a Social Security Blue Book listing;
- the applicant’s combination of impairments prevents the claimant from working; or
- the vocational expert used the applicant’s past work history improperly to determine jobs the applicant can still perform.
Fees for disability attorneys are regulated by federal law and typically amount to the lesser of 25% of disability back pay or $6,000.
This fee comes straight from the SSA so there are no out-of-Pocket costs for you. The government realizes that folks filing for disability will be unable to pay for an attorney by themselves. If a case goes to Appeals Council or federal court costs may increase, but fees are only charged if you win your case. When is the best time to hire a disability attorney? The earlier, the better. Legal representation will ensure that your claim is filed properly and may speed the process of receiving the benefits you are entitled to.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
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Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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