California Social Security Disability Lawyers

What Does a Social Security Disability Attorney Do?

Many applications for disability benefits are initially rejected by the Social Security Administration (SSA). If this is what has happened to you, you may find that hiring a Social Security disability attorney is a sensible decision. But what can a Social Security disability attorney actually do to help you qualify for disability benefits?

Initial applications for disability benefits are most commonly rejected because there is insufficient evidence to support the applicant’s claim that their disability meets the criteria the SSA has established for their condition. Having your application for disability benefits rejected means that you may have to proceed to an appeal. Despite the fact that appeals are oftentimes successful, the appeals process can be quite challenging and exhausting, especially for those who have a medical condition that is disabling.

While a disability attorney may not be able to influence the decision(s) made by the SSA’s examiners, they can help you prepare your initial application and appeal.

If an appeal is necessary because your initial application has been rejected, the attorney can explain the steps that an appeal might go through. These consist of (1) a request to reconsider the original application, (2) a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and (3) further appeals to higher levels of the court, including the Supreme Court.

By hiring and working with a disability attorney, they can help prepare you for any of these stages of the appeals process, as well as even represent you at the ALJ hearing—if the appeal reaches that stage—as well as any other court appearances further down the line.

Most disability attorneys work on a contingency fee arrangement (i.e., basis), which means that they do not get paid unless you (i.e., their client) wins their case—meaning they get approved to receive disability benefits. In other words, a contingency fee arrangement means that disability attorney fees are only deducted if the claim is successful. Ultimately, this means that you would be unlikely to have to pay attorney fees upfront.

California Social Security Disability Lawyers

Applying for and winning California Social Security disability benefits is a lengthy process. Only 32.6% of initial Social Security disability claims are awarded in California compared to 32.1% nationally. If your initial claim is denied, you can submit a Request for Reconsideration. Initial appeals are awarded 11.8% of the time in the state of California and 11.3% of the time nationally. California SSD claims that have been denied a second time can be sent before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at one of seventeen ODAR hearing offices in the state. The hearing offices that serve the largest populations and hear the most cases for the state of California are located in Moreno Valley, Pasadena, San Bernardino, San Diego, Los Angeles Downtown, Los Angeles West, Oakland, Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose.

If your case must go before an ALJ, the process of having your case heard and a decision reached will generally take nearly a year – an average of 335 days in the state of California and 349 days nationally. At the hearing level, 60.7% of California SSD cases are awarded, which is a bit more than the 58.3% of cases that are awarded nationally.

The award rates for CA disability cases vary considerably from office to office. The table below provides a list of approval rates and processing times for some of the busier ODAR hearing offices in Northern and Southern California.

Hearing OfficeApproval RateProcessing Time in Days
Los Angeles West40.8%279
Los Angeles Downtown51.6%263
Moreno Valley48.1%377
San Bernardino42.0%363
San Diego55.3%394
San Francisco55.2%310
San Jose56.0%341


Between the 11 offices listed above, there are 113 ALJs rendering decisions on California disability cases - 9 judges serve in Los Angeles West, 8 judges serve Los Angeles Downtown, 9 judges serve Moreno Valley, 8 judges serve in Pasadena, 18 judges serve in San Bernardino, 19 judges serve in San Diego, 9 judges serve in Oakland, 8 judges serve the Stockton community, 16 serve in Sacramento, 10 serve in San Francisco and 8 serve in San Jose. California SSD attorneys who regularly present cases before hearing offices will likely have established relationships with ALJs.

Click on the closest city to you for more information on hiring a California Social Security attorney in your area:

If you have a California social security disability case pending, contact your local California disability attorney to schedule a free consultation. You can complete a free evaluation right on this site. There is no charge for an initial consultation and you will not have to pay any attorney’s fees unless your disability lawyer wins your case.

Additional Resources

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