The Social Security Disability system is long and frustrating, to say the least. However, there are 37,776 reasons to go through this process. That’s the maximum SSD annual benefit in 2021. For people who are disabled and unable to pay regular bills, let alone their disability-related expenses, that sum may seem like striking oil in the backyard.
The bureaucracy is especially hard to navigate for people with severe mental, physical, emotional, or other disabilities. That’s especially true if an important meeting, call, or hearing happens to fall on a bad day when you are sick, your phone broke and can’t get your phone call, or encounter any other Murphy’s Law happening . All SSD applicants struggle with such conditions. Otherwise, they probably would not have applied in the first place. Regular accommodations are available. Furthermore, the Social Security Administration has expanded these accommodations, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This expansion also means higher expectations. Claims Examiners now usually assume that applicants have outside help. So, they are often not as accommodating as they were before. As a result, unless you have a well-qualified personal representative, or better yet an SSI disability lawyer in Memphis from the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, you are at a significant disadvantage. In the past, attorneys or active personal representatives sometimes got in the way. Now, this help and legal representation might be the most important component of your claim.
When You Need a Personal Representative
Many people work with Personal Representatives (PR’s) prior to the initial claims evaluation. PRs have some general knowledge about the SSD system as well as the proper forms to submit. Additionally, most PRs are internet savvy. So, they can help with things like emailing information or finding information online. Sometimes they can help with video conferencing connections or providing access to video devices.
Most applicants ask friends or relatives to act as their Personal Representatives. These PRs might not be as knowledgeable as a full-time professional Personal Representative. But the trust factor is very high and usually offsets other areas where they may not have information or knowledge.
Choosing a professional Personal Representative can have its limitations. The main problem is that PRs need almost no special qualifications. The two major requirements, a “good” reputation and the ability to give “valuable” help, are very subjective. An extreme example is, “If you are not currently arrested and in jail, then you have a good reputation and if you show a claimant how to plug in a laptop, you’ve given valuable assistance”.
We mentioned filling out forms above. There is a lot of paperwork at the initial claim review stage. PRs can give general advice about which forms to file and when to file them. They can also assist with preparation, mostly by typing the data claimants tell them to type. But they cannot tell claimants how to fill out these forms. Doing so could constitute unauthorized practice of law.
In fact, Personal Representatives cannot give any legal advice at all. They can answer your general “what happens next” procedural questions. But if you have specific questions about your particular claim, only an SSI lawyer near you can answer them. Heermans Disability Law Firm serving Memphis and the greater mid-south area of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas can most certainly do this for you.
Because of these practical and legal restrictions, if your claim reaches the reconsideration stage, which it almost certainly will, most Personal Representatives are way out of their league trying to answer claim questions.
One final note in this area. There are no rules about how much money PRs can charge. In some cases, Personal Representatives will likely charge just as much as lawyers. Granted, a relative or friend might do the job largely as a favor or gift. Unfortunately, if you go it alone, no matter how well-meaning these individuals are, you get what you pay for, or what you don’t pay for.
What an Attorney Can Do
After the claim reaches the reconsideration stage, and about 80 percent of SSD claims get at least this far, a lawyer can help in three major ways.
As the Administrative Law Judge hearing approaches, the SSA’s lawyers often try to settle these claims. As mentioned, PRs cannot legally evaluate these matters, so they do not know their settlement values. A lawyer determines a claim’s value, so applicants have a better chance of obtaining a fair amount of benefits. Additionally, lawyers are excellent negotiators. They know when to compromise and when to stand firm.
Furthermore, attorneys are much better legal advocates than Personal Representatives. Only lawyers know how to introduce evidence, challenge evidence, and make legal arguments at an ALJ hearing. Additionally, an experienced lawyer is usually a familiar face, not only to the ALJ, but also to the clerks and other support staff. This familiarity does not make or break a case. But it can affect how smoothly the case proceeds.
Not all claims settle on favorable terms or turn out well at ALJ hearings. Attorneys know how to evaluate your case at this point. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to press forward with additional appeals. Other times, it’s better to back up and start over. Attorneys take the guesswork out of this decision process.
Choosing the Right Attorney
Googling a phrase like “SSI lawyer near me” could generate dozens of results. All the people who pop up meet some standard of qualification. But not all of them are well-suited to handle your specific claim.
We mentioned “claim experience” above. That’s probably the most important quality in a lawyer. Your disability claim should never serve as on-the-job training for an inexperienced lawyer. There is way too much at stake.
Accessibility is another important factor. In the mid-south manners are important and it is nice to be able to get a timely and courteous response from your attorney.
Not all lawyers can meet with you without an appointment and always answer your calls and emails within hours or minutes. On the other end of the scale, most claimants should also avoid attorneys who are extremely busy. These lawyers often delegate much of the work to a less-experienced associate, or even a non lawyer legal assistant. A happy medium is what you are looking for. A responsive lawyer with good staff and structure is a winner, just like the professionals at Heermans Disability Law Firm.
Physical accessibility used to be important as well. For example, a highly recommended SSA lawyer might have an office on the other side of town. Traveling that distance every time you have a question or need to meet with the lawyer is probably physically impossible for many SSD claimants. The Coronavirus has put a spin on how Social Security processes disability claims and lawyers have followed suit. Claims procedures are technology driven now with smartphones, video calls, and computers. The days of physically having to repeatedly go to your attorneys office are long gone.
Put the power of Heermans legal representation on your side.
If you are wanting to apply for disability, been denied your claim, or want more information about social security disability claim procedures, you can get a FREE DISABILITY EVALUATION. Contact the SSI lawyers near you at the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm. Call or text 24/7 today at (901) 244-0057
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