Lawyers and Social Security Disability
Disability benefits are a federally run program through the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides financial assistance to those who have become disabled and are unable to work to earn a living wage. Disability benefits can be used to cover the costs of medical bills and everyday living expenses.
Being denied disability benefits is common, and if you feel that your application was wrongly denied, you can hire a lawyer to help you appeal the SSA’s decision.
When your disability benefits application is denied and you decide to appeal the decision, you should first research the disability lawyers in your area. Once you decide on a law firm to contact, you will call their office and they will perform an initial review of your case. The lawyer will look at the details of your case and why you were denied before deciding to represent you.
Most disability lawyers are instructed to only accept cases that will most likely be successful, so if you do not have a strong case, they will choose to reject your case.
The initial review happens when you first file your claim for disability benefits. Often, the claim is denied during the initial review process. They will need to have supporting documentation, specifically hard medical evidence, so they can confirm the severity of your conditions as well as your restrictions and limitations.
When you start your claim, you must complete the claim forms in detail. Don’t skip any questions and be sure to answer in detail. Properly answer the questions, indicating how you are disabled and your restrictions and limitations.
During this level of review, they will ask about your work history, your work skills, your educational background, and other details to get a full picture of what kind of work you have done and what kind of work you could do. They will take all your medical records and review them. These records should confirm a diagnosis, detail your symptoms and how you are affected, and discuss your treatment plan.
It should further detail how you are responding to treatment, as well as any side effects caused by the treatment. Disability Determination Services (DDS) will review everything, including physician notes and work records to determine your restrictions and limitations. They will use the details to determine if you can still your past kind of work or if you can perform some other kind of work and earn a living.
You can retain a disability attorney at any time during the claims process, even before you file your claim. Most claims are denied during the initial review, and if that is the case, you should retain a lawyer to file your request for reconsideration. Your lawyer will help you gather supporting evidence for your claim. When your claim is denied, they will send you a denial notice that explains in detail why your claim was denied.
A disability lawyer will know how to address those deficiencies and provide the additional details for DDS to review during the reconsideration phase. Your lawyer will make sure your records are all obtained, and your file is complete, so it can properly reviewed and then properly considered.
Your lawyer will understand what kind of evidence your claim is lacking, so he or she will be able to gather the missing links to get your claim on track.
Gathering Medical Evidence
In order to gain access to your medical records to gather evidence, the lawyer will have you sign a medical privacy release that allows them to do so. Most importantly, they will contact your treating doctors to get written statements about your disability diagnosis; prognosis; and a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment, which shows the functional limitations of your disability that make it unable for you to work.
Your lawyer may also request that you undergo a consultative examination, either with an SSA doctor or on your own.
Before your hearing with the SSA to determine if your case was wrongfully denied, your lawyer will hold a pre-hearing meeting with you to go over some of the potential questions you will be asked. This will be either in person or over the phone. Among the many questions, these may include:
• Describe the symptoms of your disability.
• When did you first become unable to work?
• Can you walk a flight of stairs and carry a gallon of milk?
The key to a successful disability claim is to prove that your medical records support your claim. Your records should contain detailed physician notes, surgical notes if they apply, details about treatments, and the specifics about your restrictions and limitations.
The records should indicate what you can and cannot do, as well as how you are unable to do the same things that you were able to do before your medical condition became disabling.
You should make sure you have undergone the appropriate testing that the SSA applies to your condition so they can determine if your diagnosis is worthy of disability benefits. Documentation and detailed medical reports to support your claim are a necessity to have your claim approved. Without hard medical evidence, your disability claim will be denied.
Your lawyer will retain copies of your medical records. The costs for getting these records is considered an advance and you will repay those expenses after your claim is approved and you recover benefits. Your attorney may also get statements from medical experts and ask for statements from coworkers, caregivers, and acquaintances familiar with your situation.
Many claims must advance to the hearing level before an administrative law judge before they are approved. Your disability lawyer will work to prepare you for the hearing level. Disability attorneys understand the hearing process, and they will review your records and get a general idea of what kinds of questions that the judge may ask you.
You will practice responding to these questions. The lawyer will also know what kinds of responses or comments you can expect from the vocational experts or medical experts in attendance. Your lawyer will make final preparations for the hearing such as gathering additional evidence, obtaining more medical records, and enlisting witnesses who can testify during the hearing to support your claim.
The strength of a disability case is based on medical evidence. A disability specialist will review your medical history and work with you to gather any medical reports you might need. More specifically, to decide which information is the most relevant, he or she must go through the hundreds of pages of records.
Developing Theory for Your Case
Before your hearing, your lawyer will also develop a theory for why you are disabled, and use this as a strategy to present your case in court. The possible theories for your disability include:
• Your condition meets a disability listing
• You can’t perform your prior jobs, a.k.a., you “grid out”
• You can’t perform even a sedentary, or sit-down, job
Paying Your Lawyer
As with most legal cases, your lawyer will only be paid if you win your case. You will need to sign a contingency fee that says the SSA will pay your lawyer if you win your case.
The money that is paid to your lawyer will come out of your back payment amount. Usually, the lawyer is paid around 25% of your back payment lump sum, up to $6,000. For example, if you are awarded $20,000 in back payments, your lawyer will receive $5,000 and you’ll receive $15,000.
Your lawyer will review the details of your case and determine the best way to pursue your claim. After reviewing everything, your lawyer will be able to determine the best way to proceed with your claim and the likelihood of your claim being approved. Your lawyer will review the details and then compare your evidence to the approvals process.
Your lawyer will make sure that your claim meets the criteria that are necessary to have a claim approved. Those criteria include finding a way for your medical condition to meet the criteria of a listing, even if is by using an RFC or a medical vocational allowance.
Your lawyer will show that you cannot perform your prior jobs, or that you grid out because of your medical conditions and how they affect your ability to function. Then your lawyer will prove that you cannot perform even light-duty work, which is a sedentary job, which is sometimes called a sit-down job.
Your attorney will not get paid until your claim is approved and you receive backpay. Your attorney will work diligently to make sure you recover disability benefits, and he or she understands the importance of gathering supporting evidence and documentation to get your claim on track. Claimants who are represented by a disability attorney are much more likely to have their claim approved and be awarded disability benefits.
You will need to provide your attorney with a detailed list of all your medical providers, so they can retain those records to get your claim on track. Your lawyer will then carefully review your records and make sure your records provide the evidence that is needed to get your claim approved and show your limitations and restrictions.