Because our newest blog series—Disability Dialogue— has received a lot of positive feedback, we thought we would continue with these posts. For this series, we interviewed several disability benefit recipients about their experience with the Social Security Disability application process. We thought that these interviews would provide you with realistic expectations, improve your experience, and potentially prepare you to submit your own application for disability benefits. If you’d like to share your experience with us, leave a comment in the section below and we will be in contact with you.
Disability Dialogue—Application Frustration, Hiring an Attorney, and Firing an Attorney
We’d like to remind you, that any information provided by these claimants is based on their own personal opinions and experiences. If the information they provide is false, we will do our best to correct it in the section titled “Our Thoughts”—so be sure to read the entire article.
Today we’ll be speaking with a woman who spent 9 months applying for disability benefits. She was ultimately awarded benefits during the appeals phase of the application process. Here’s what she had to say:
What was your overall experience like applying for benefits?
My overall experience with the process was disheartening. I found it difficult to do on my own because the employees on the SS help lines did not speak in an assistance manner. They spoke as if I had been completing these forms on a daily basis for much of my life. They did not really provide a direction to go that was easy to follow. Additionally, the calls would take what seemed like forever because there was always a wait time before I could speak to somebody.
After my long term disability insurance kicked in, everything changed for the better. The insurance carrier had their own provider that gave assistance in completing the application for SSD process. Once they took over, I did not feel like I had been placed in a situation where my financial survival was based on paperwork and wording that was so foreign to me.
What were the biggest challenges you faced throughout the process?
The biggest challenges were trying to complete the required documents the way SS wanted them to be filled out, when the questions were confusing. I also felt very defeated during the process because I have multiple college degrees, including an MBA, and I still was unsure of how to answer the questions.
The wait time when you have to call in is horrible! Additionally, some forms had to be completed multiple times because SS would say that they did not receive them or that they must have been misplaced. It is frustrating to keep repeating steps, when you are already confused, your physical or emotional disabilities are acting up, and you are concerned about paying bills and survival.
What advice do you have for those who are thinking about filing for disability?
My suggestions for anybody applying for disability would include exhausting any possibility of assistance from your employer’s assistance programs or any short-term or long-term disability programs that may be offered. If you can afford to hire somebody to help them with the process and to keep it moving, do it! One very important suggestion is to hire a company that does the forms for you via telephone meeting. I worked with a company like this via my long-term disability insurance carrier. I do not recommend going directly to an attorney, despite all their commercials on TV.
My reasoning for telling people to avoid attorneys is because they take the same % of your award or more than companies that provide assistance with the paperwork. Once an attorney is hired, you can no longer decide to go with somebody else's assistance. Once the attorney is hired, they put their name on your SSD file for payment. That attorney will be paid, no matter what, so other companies will not be able to take your case or help you. The SSA will not remove the attorney's information, unless the attorney writes a letter stating that they are no longer representing you and that they no longer want to be listed to accept payment. An attorney is not going to do that.
Although we recognize that everyone’s experience with disability benefits is different, we do not necessarily agree with this claimant’s advice. If you are lucky enough to have support from your employer or an outside service, by all means take advantage of these things. However, many individuals don’t have access to these things. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you speak with an attorney or advocate.
An attorney will have a thorough understanding of the Social Security Disability application process and can actually increase your chances of approval. Many of the issues that this claimant encountered may not have occurred if she had the help of an attorney early on in the application process. Learn more about the benefits of hiring an attorney, here
The first issue this claimant addressed is the matter of pay. It is important to note that Social Security Disability attorneys and advocates are paid differently than most legal professionals. Instead of requiring a large fee up front, Social Security Disability attorneys are only paid if the applicant’s claim is approved. Once a claimant is approved, an agreed upon fee will be deducted from the claimant’s back pay by the Social Security Administration (SSA). All payment is closely monitored by the SSA so that you will not have to worry about being tricked or taken advantage of. Learn more about how your attorney or advocate will be paid, here.
The second issue that this claimant addresses is the matter of firing an attorney and hiring a new one. If you are unhappy with your attorney at any point of the application process, you are allowed to fire him or her. Having said that—you should go into the process with realistic expectations. The application process will likely take a very long time. There is usually nothing that an attorney or advocate can do to prevent this. If you do fire your attorney, he or she will be entitled to payment for the work that they have already done on your case.
Have you been through the Social Security Disability application process? Leave a comment in the section below if you’d like to share your experience with us.