Experts Recommend Help When Claiming Disability

Submitted by Shane on

It has never been easy to be approved for Social Security disability benefits. The disability application process is complicated and cumbersome, and the lag time between filing a claim and being granted or denied disability benefits is notoriously long. In the current economy, where more and more people are losing their jobs and their health benefits, the process can be even more difficult.

For example, a catch-22 of the Social Security disability claims process is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will demand to see both past and current health records in order to document the onset, progression, and severity of a medical condition. But when people lose their health benefits, they must either cut back on medical care or can no longer afford it at all. This results in a gap in medical records and hampers an individual’s chances of being approved for disability benefits.

If you have that or a similar issue, having the help of an SSDI advocate is vital.

Janice Cruden, a disability benefits specialist and founder of Disability Solutions Inc. in Cleveland was quoted in an October 22, 2010 article in the Cleveland Daily Banner as saying, ““Seeking disability benefits is very stressful and difficult for those who are already struggling with physical or mental challenges. This is further complicated by the fact that the process is very involved and difficult to understand unless one is trained in the field. Approximately 90 percent of applicants are denied at the initial level. Approximately 75 percent of applicants are then denied at the reconsideration level, but 75 percent or more are approved at the hearing level.”

Cruden believes it would be difficult for the average individual to go through the process without help.

Although you may understand that being represented when bringing a disability claim before SSA increases the chances that your claim will be allowed, and although your disabling conditions may make applying on your own a daunting prospect, you may still be hesitating to hire an advocate.

One of the roadblocks you may be facing is uncertainty around paying for legal services. You can take some comfort in knowing that legal fees in Social Security disability cases are capped. Not only that, but your representative must receive approval from the SSA for the fees charged and may not collect more than the amount authorized.

The SSA takes a very dim view of attorneys who do not submit their fees for approval or who charge and collect more for their services than the SSA allows. Punishment includes criminal penalties, and the SSA will disqualify the attorney from representing anyone else before the the SSA.

You will know what your attorney is charging because you are required to sign the initial fee agreement which is sent to the SSA for approval, and you will be sent a copy of the fee petition submitted to the SSA at the end of the claims process. If you do not see these forms in the course of your representation, demand that they be produced. If you are not satisfied that your representative has acted honestly in his or her dealings with you and the SSA, use the SSA fraud hotline to report the abuse.

It will cost money to be represented in your Social Security disability case, but it should make the process much easier for you and representation greatly increases your chances of being approved for SSDI or SSI benefits.

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