So, you can’t work. You’d like to, but something has happened that makes working full time impossible. Maybe you’ve recently stopped working, or you’ve been dealing with an impairment for some period of time. Maybe you’re being treated by a doctor, and Social Security Disability is mentioned. What do you do?
- Apply yourself: Social security allows a claimant to initially apply themselves, either in person at a social security office, or online at the Social Security Administration website. Many claimants choose to apply themselves at the outset, and wait on the initial decision. This is very common, and most attorneys are contacted by claimants once their claim has been denied initially. While an attorney can assist at any time during the process, most claimants begin to feel like they need expert representation once they’ve been denied initially. This usually makes sense for most claimants.
- Hire an attorney: If a claimant has applied themselves and been denied, an experienced social security attorney can be helpful. Once a claim has been denied initially, the claim enters into one of two different phases. Some states have a step called reconsideration, which essentially means someone else at the social security administration will take a look at the claim. At this point, new evidence can be submitted and looked at by the administration and considered. Importantly, other states don’t have this step, and claims that are denied move on to the hearing request stage. If your state does use reconsideration, and you’re denied at reconsideration, the final step is to request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Most claimants who end up being approved for social security disability obtain their favorable ruling at this stage. Many claimants contact an experience attorney at this stage, since it requires preparation and an actual hearing in front of a Judge.
What can an attorney do for my claim?
Great question. Since social security will process your claim at all steps of the process without and attorney or representative, some claimants wonder why they should hire an attorney? While every person has a different perspective on the process, there are number of things an attorney can help with.
- Communication: Once an attorney signs on to a case, the social security administration begins to communicate with the attorney instead of only with the claimant. The attorney can explain confusing requests, and assist with the proper information being provided to the social security administration. An attorney can also help with certain types of documentation that can help your claim be successful, whether that be from doctors or other experts. Communicating with social security can be stressful and confusing; but an attorney can make this process more understandable and easier.
- Medical Records: Obtaining up to date medical records is extremely important to a successful claim, as a favorable disability decision must be corroborated by medical evidence. Sometimes, getting records from hospitals and then sending them to social security can be frustrating and difficult. Sometimes it can cost money. Attorneys typically use professional medical record procurement companies to follow up and organize medical records so you don’t have to. Also, attorney representatives can take electronic records and upload them directly onto the social security portal – bypassing the need to fax massive documents or mail huge reams of paper records.
- Hearing prep: Most people aren’t in front of Judges every day, but social security attorney reps are. An experienced attorney can walk you through the hearing process from start to finish, making the hearing much smoother and less stressful for nervous claimants. It’s our job to make sure you’re ready, prepared, and relaxed before the important hearing. Attorneys can also explain the decision process, cross examine experts, and develop a hearing strategy that can make your chances of succeed higher. Mostly, a social security attorney will be there every step of the way, answering questions and working hand in hand with you to navigate this confusing but important process.
How do attorneys get paid?
Disability attorneys generally don’t charge any fees up front for their services. If you win your claim, the attorney will usually be paid a limited percentage of your back pay directly from the federal government – meaning you never write a check or hand any cash to your attorney. Attorney fees are limited to 25% of your back pay or 6,000 dollars total – whichever is less. Again, you usually don’t pay anything and don’t’ reimburse for services, medical records, or time – the only fee is what social security takes from your back pay and send to your attorney.