Should you hire a Social Security Disability lawyer or Social Security Disability advocate if you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits? Although many disability claimants do win SSDI or SSI benefits without the help of a disability advocate or disability lawyer, a large percentage of disability claimants will seek legal assistance at some point in the Social Security Disability appeals process.
Most disability claimants will apply for SSDI or SSI benefits on their own and hire a disability lawyer or disability advocate if they are denied benefits. Keep in mind you have 60 days from the date of the denial letter to appeal the SSA denial decision.
When is it a good idea to hire either a Social Security Disability advocate or disability lawyer? If you are too sick or disabled to do research to understand the process, it is a good idea to seek legal help. Whether you are filing for reconsideration (the first step in the SSA appeal process for most states) or you have requested an Administration Hearing, a Social Security Disability attorney or non-attorney representative can prepare help prepare your case.
Many non-attorney representatives and disability lawyers are highly trained and have experience successfully arguing SSD cases. Claimants who are not represented by counsel generally have a 40% chance of receiving SSI or SSDI benefits at the administrative hearing level. Claimants represented by counsel have approval ratings as high as 60%.
Should you hire a disability lawyer or disability advocate?
Claimants who have a severe mental or physical health condition which is straight forward and meets a medical listing that the SSA has already determined makes a claimant disabled do not need a Social Security Disability lawyer.
If you are one of the 60%, however, who have had their Social Security Disability application denied at the initial application level, a disability lawyer or disability advocate can gather additional medical evidence and prepare a strong disability case to prove you are disabled and unable to maintain employment.
To decide if you are ready to defend your own Social Security Disability claim at a disability hearing ask yourself the following questions:
• Are you ready to plead your claim?
• Do you understand the Social Security Disability hearing procedures?
• Have you reviewed your medical records?
• Are you sure your medical records provide evidence that you are unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA)?
• Do you understand what the Social Security Administration means by SGA work?
• Did you know a job expert will be at your hearing and will suggest jobs they think you can work?
• Are you ready to argue why you are unable to work certain jobs suggested by the vocational specialist?
What is the difference between a SSD Advocate and SSD Lawyer?
Disability advocates help disability claimants at every step in the SSA disability process from the initial application level all the way to a disability hearing (if necessary). They have a clear understanding of benefit systems such as Social Security, Medicare and Vocational Rehabilitation and generally have a college degree in psychology, social work or another relevant field of study.
Most advocates understand the disability process and have helped dozens if not hundreds of claimants with their disability claims. They are generally able to meet deadlines, multi-task and have strong interpersonal skills.
Disability attorneys have many of the same abilities, but they will have a law degree. There may be some argument about the benefit of the law degree and whether or not this is really necessary to win disability claims.
The pay structure for disability lawyers and advocates will be similar (25% of back pay up to a maximum of $6,000).
Some people will argue disability advocates may be able to offer their claimants more one on one time, especially if their case load is lighter. One web-site that promotes advocates stated that they may meet their clients in their homes to review their disability claims; it is unlikely a disability lawyer would come to claimant’s home to interview them about their case due to their high case load.
In the end, whether to hire a disability lawyer or disability advocate may come down to personal preference and the skills of the actual attorneys and advocates you are considering.
Like all professions, there will be some advocates and lawyers who are very good and others who are not. It is a good idea to interview several different Social Security Disability advocates and Social Security Disability lawyers before making your hiring decisions.
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