The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not require applicants for disability benefits to have legal assistance. However, the claims process can be daunting, with possible setbacks and delays at every turn. Your claim may be further complicated by insufficient medical documentation, inaccurate back pay awards, and more. Having a disability attorney handling your claim can help ease the stress of the process, reduce delays, and help ensure that you receive the benefit award you deserve. The following are only some of the ways that the right law firm can assist with your disability claim.
Helping You File a Complete and Accurate Claim
Not everyone needs an attorney to file their initial disability application. However, some people might have such anxiety about the process that they wait much longer than they should to file a claim. On the other hand, some people may file a claim too hastily and fail to include essential information or supporting documents. A lawyer who understands the disability application process can ensure that your application is accurate, complete, and filed as soon as possible.
File Your Reconsideration Appeal on Time
Many disability applications are denied in the first round of review. In order to keep your case alive, you will have 60 days to file your request for reconsideration by the SSA. While most reconsiderations are denied, you cannot continue the appeal process if you miss this deadline or try to skip this step. An attorney can prepare and file your request right away after a denial to avoid any further delays.
Request a Disability Hearing
You should learn about the results of your reconsideration within about 90 days, and this decision often upholds the denial. The next step is to properly request a date for a disability hearing. This request should be put in as soon as you can, since the wait times for hearings can be extensive.
Represent You at Your Hearing
At a disability hearing, you will want to present a persuasive case to the administrative law judge (ALJ) that you are disabled in accordance with SSA standards. This involves presenting relevant facts and supporting evidence and applying the SSA guidelines and vocational standards to those facts. The stronger and more cohesive your strategy and case theory is, the greater the chance of a successful disability hearing. These are complex legal issues, and the hearing process can be intimidating. Having legal representation during this process is highly important to the outcome of your case.
Fight for an Accurate Established Onset Date (EOD) and Back Pay
Even if the SSA or ALJ agrees that you are disabled and deserve benefits, there is another important issue to address – your established onset date of disability (EOD). This date is critical because you may be eligible for back pay for past-due benefits from your EOD. A knowledgeable lawyer will know how to prove your EOD to make sure you receive the maximum back pay available in your case.
Each Case is Different
Some people have relatively straightforward cases when it comes to applying for disability benefits. If you have a disability that is clearly covered by the SSA impairment list, and you have extensive documentation to support your diagnosis and disability, you may not need an attorney for the initial application. If your application is denied, however, your first call should be to an experienced lawyer.
If you believe you may have a borderline case or unique circumstances that are not directly covered by the SSA impairment lists, it would be wise to discuss your matter with an attorney even before you file your initial application.
The Potential Risks of Not Finding an Attorney
While some people successfully file Social Security disability applications without legal assistance, there are some possible risks of trying to do so. For example:
- There are many different deadlines involved in the disability claims process, and it is easy to miss a deadline. You might miss a consultative medical examination or your miss your chance to file for reconsideration. An attorney will be well-aware of these dates and will work to ensure no deadlines are missed.
- After receiving a denial, many applicants may not fully understand their rights to an appeal, the requirements for an appeal, and more. Unfortunately, too many people who are intimidated or unsure of the appeals process allow their applications to go cold without pursuing an appeal. An experienced attorney will not allow that to happen.
- Without an attorney, you will likely have substantial stress and concern regarding your application. With the right representation, you can focus on your physical and mental health while your legal team handles your case.