When considering whether or not to hire a professional to assist you when you file for Social Security disability benefits, you may wonder what sort of person has the necessary experience, what they can do for you, what they will charge to assist you, and whether or not their help is worth what they charge.
A “professional” refers either to a qualified Social Security disability attorney or someone such as a social worker or other person who is experienced in dealing with Social Security disability benefits. When you interview someone to act for you in applying for disability benefits, be sure to ask them what to expect from the process and ask them to tell you specifically what they will do for you. It would be helpful for you to get this list of services in writing. You should also ask for references from others who have used their services or ask them to explain why they are qualified to assist you when you file for disability benefits.
Ask the professional you are interviewing what they charge. All claims representatives who charge for their services are required to get written permission for their fees from the SSA. However, they are allowed to ask for payment up front as long as they hold that payment in trust for you for future services. While the SSA sets a limit on the fees that can be charged by a disability benefits representative, he or she is allowed to charge you for out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical reports and postage, in addition to his or her fees without SSA approval.
When you hire a professional to assist you, they will act on your behalf in dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA will work with your representative just as they would work with you.
Your representative can be of tremendous help to you in gathering the information needed to successfully present your disability case to SSA. They will conduct research to determine the type of records needed and the period of time the records need to cover, and they can request all these records from your doctors. If there is missing information, they can advise you of your options in dealing with the gap. They will also advise you if you have a strong case, if you need to stress one area of your disabling condition over another, and whether or not it is advisable to work while you wait for your hearing. Your disability representative will receive copies of all correspondence you receive from the SSA and will help you interpret it. He or she will also help you keep track of any deadlines.
Your representative will accompany you to your disability hearing and help you present your disability claim. If your disability claim is denied, your representative will help you prepare your appeal, and, if witnesses are needed, will question the witnesses on your behalf.
If you decide to hire a representative, you must tell the SSA in writing. Your representative will have the form required.
More information about hiring a disability benefits representative can be found in SSA publication 05-10075.