Each year the Social Security Administration receives millions of disability applications. Some applicants choose to work with a Social Security Disability attorney while others choose not to. If you are considering applying for disability benefits you may be wondering whether or not you really need a disability attorney in order to apply for the benefits you need.
What happens if you don't have an attorney representing you in your claim? Is there anything wrong with representing yourself? Before you decide whether or not to hire a lawyer to handle your Social Security Disability case, make sure you know what can happen without proper legal representation.
Not All Disability Cases are Created Equal
Not everyone will need an attorney in order to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. In fact, some Social Security Disability attorneys will not even represent a client until the initial application for benefits has been denied by the Social Security Administration.
If, however, you are suffering from a disabling condition that is not covered in the SSA's listing of impairments or if your is not “cut and dry,” you may have a problem proving your disability case to the Social Security Administration.
Because of this, you may want to consider retaining the services of a disability attorney before you actually submit your application for benefits.
The Initial Disability Application Stage
During the initial stage of the Social Security application process, your attorney will usually provide you with actual legal representation. What he or she can do is provide you with valuable guidance on how to gather the appropriate medical documentation needed to prove your disability case and how you should submit your application in the best light possible in order to increase your chances of being approved at the initial application stage.
If, for some reason, your initial application is denied, your attorney can help you through the Social Security Disability appeals process and he or she will already be familiar with your case, having helped you prepare the information that was submitted with your claim.
If your initial application for disability benefits is denied and you have not yet met with a Social Security Disability attorney, you should do so before entering into the appeals stage of the application process.
What happens if you do not hire an attorney to represent you during your Social Security Disability appeal?
Working with a Social Security Disability Attorney in the Appeals Process
First and foremost, it is important to understand that without an attorney, you will have no one there to walk you through the different steps of the disability appeal process. The first stage of the appeal process is called the Request for Reconsideration stage.
When working with a disability lawyer, your attorney is likely to explain to you that fewer than 20 percent of appeals are approved at this stage of the claim process. The next stage of appeals, which almost all denied applicants must go through, is called a Social Security Disability hearing.
When you attend your Social Security Disability hearing at the local ODAR, you will be appearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Most applicants should have legal representation during this stage of the appeal process.
This is where you will have your greatest chance of overturning the Social Security Administration's decision to deny your disability benefits. Nearly two-thirds of appeals are won at the disability hearing.
With that being said, it is important to remember that your chances of actually receiving a favorable decision at your disability hearing are significantly increased if you have a lawyer representing you in front of the Administrative Law Judge. If your benefits are approved, you will receive an award letter from the SSA.
A Man Who Represents Himself...
There is an old adage that states that a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. In some Social Security Disability cases, this may prove true. If you decide to represent yourself during your disability appeal and you lose your case because of it, you will likely have to re-apply for benefits all over again.
This resets the clock and delays your ability to receive Social Security Disability benefits. It can take more than a year to be scheduled for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
Unless you want to wait another year during a second application process, you should probably have a disability attorney representing you the first time around.
While no attorney can guarantee that you will receive the disability benefits you are applying for, a qualified Social Security attorney can greatly increase your chances of being approved for Social Security Disability benefits.
If you do not have an attorney representing your case, you may waste years of time, effort and money trying to represent yourself. In the end, you may have to turn to the services of a qualified attorney when you are forced to file a second (or even third or fourth) claim for Social Security Disability benefits.