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Can an attorney help me at stages other than a hearing?

If you are applying for Social Security disability benefits, you may be pondering the idea of getting an attorney or advocate to help you with your claim. You may wonder if the only time an attorney is beneficial is at the hearing before the administrative law judge, so you may be tempted to put off getting an attorney until you reach that point.

However, an attorney or advocate can be very helpful throughout the entire claims process. You can benefit significantly by consulting with an advocate or attorney early on, even before filing your claim.

Filing the Social Security Claim

Your advocate or attorney can help you with filing of your initial claim for disability. This can make a significant impact on your case early on. Many claims are denied because the application is not completed in detail and that the required documentation is not received by Disability Determination Services.

Your attorney can make sure the application is completed thoroughly and with explicit details regarding your condition, your limitations, and your restrictions. Your attorney or advocate can also make sure all your medical records are released and sent to the proper office at Disability Determination Services.

Filing the Appeals for Denied Claims

If your initial claim is denied, your attorney or advocate can file the request for reconsideration, which is the first appeal available to a claimant who has been denied benefits. During this process, your claim and the evidence are once again considered. During this step, your claim is put into review by a different team of people at Disability Determination Services.

The reconsideration of the claim can take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks. If your claim is denied on this level, your advocate or attorney will file an appeal on your behalf and request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

The Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge

While the wait to be scheduled for this hearing can be several months, this level of the disability claims process can be the most fruitful because there are more claims approved on this level than on any other level of the disability application process. When you reach the hearing, about 65% of claims are approved.

However, to have your claim approved by the judge, you must be prepared for the hearing. An advocate or an attorney can help you make the proper preparations by telling you what to expect, informing you and prepping you for the questions that will be asked, comparing and updating medical documentation and other information, and discuss the possibilities of scenarios and hypotheticals used by the judge with the vocational expert.

At the Hearing and Afterward

Once the judge has issued his or her decision regarding your claim, the attorney or advocate can help you as you go forward. If your claim is denied, they can help you refile and start the process again. If your claim is approved, they can inform you about Medicare and your insurance options as well as helping you plan how to use your benefits wisely.

If you haven't contacted an attorney yet, be sure to do so as soon as you can!