Can a Lawyer Help Me Apply for Benefits, or Just Represent Me if I Appeal?

Submitted by Shane on

When considering applying for Social Security Disability benefits, many applicants are faced with the question of whether it is better to hire a qualified disability lawyer to help with the initial application process, or if a person should only retain the services of a Social Security attorney once their claim is denied.

The truth is that the sooner in the disability application process that you hire a disability attorney, the better it is for the success of your claim. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), over 70% of disability claims are denied. Although there is an appeals process in place, it’s not uncommon for Social Security Disability applicants to wait over two years from the date of their application for their claim to be resolved (and even then, it’s not always decided in their favor).

Hiring a Social Security lawyer when you’re first applying for disability benefits has a few distinct advantages. First, they can assist you in filling out the application and other initial paperwork, and can follow-up to make sure that the SSA is properly processing and evaluating your claim. Statistics show that disability applicants who are represented by a Social Security lawyer have a greater chance of having their claim approved upon their initial application, therefore saving them the lengthy wait involved in the appeals process. So even if you’re early in the application process, it can be an excellent idea to hire a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer.

If your claim is denied twice, you’ll then have to wait for your turn to have a disability hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. In most areas, the wait for a hearing (not counting the prior steps in the disability application process) is over a year. It’s even more important that you be represented by a skilled Social Security disability attorney if you’re waiting for a disability hearing, as he or she can prepare you for the questions the judge might ask you, and at the hearing, can point out any errors in the testimony of any expert witnesses, such as doctors or employment experts that the SSA often hires to appear. If you do end up having a disability hearing, it can save you a lot of trouble at the time if you already have an established relationship with a lawyer for Social Security disability.

Last, while there’s no requirement that you have a representative while applying for Social Security Disability, the SSA does control what fees these representatives are able to charge. Social Security attorneys are required to work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they aren’t paid unless your claim is approved (if that happens, they’ll receive a fee equal to ¼ of your retroactive benefit payments, up to a maximum of $6,000). They don’t receive any portion of your ongoing payments, and since you pay nothing if your claim isn’t approved, there’s no reason not to hire a qualified disability advocate early in the disability application process.

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