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Can a lawyer speed up my disability claim?

To understand whether or not a disability lawyer can expedite the disability process for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it is important to understand what a lawyer can actually do and what they cannot do.

What does a Social Security Disability Attorney do?

Up to 70% of disability applications are denied at the initial applications level. Claimants whose claims are denied have 60 days from the date of the disability denial letter to file their appeal. So what can the disability lawyer do?

• Social Security Disability attorneys can file all Social Security appeals, making sure all of the necessary medical records are included to prove the disability claim.

Medical records for each claimant are requested by the Social Security Administration, but if hospitals or doctors fail to send the claimant’s medical records a lawyer can subpoena necessary records.

• Disability lawyers can review the claimant’s medical records and ensure that evidence is included that proves the claimant is disabled.

• SSA Disability lawyers can build an argument outlining why the claimant is unable to perform their past jobs or any other job in the regional economy.

• Disability attorneys can argue their claimant’s disability case before the administrative law judge if the claimant has to appeal their claim to the Social Security hearing level. Job experts and potentially medical experts will be at the hearing. Job experts are tasked with identifying jobs the claimant could perform given their current health limitations. Disability lawyers can argue that the claimant cannot perform the jobs suggested by the job experts and present evidence to support that fact.

• If the disability lawyer believes their client has a strong case they can ask the court for an on the record review which indicates the attorney believes the claimant’s case is strong enough to support an approval of their benefits without a formal hearing. This could potentially eliminate months of unnecessary waiting for the claimant.

What a Disability Lawyer cannot do

After you file your Social Security Disability application the Social Security Administration is allowed 90 to 120 days to make their initial disability decision, and up to 70% of the initial disability applications are denied.

If you are denied at the Social Security Disability application level you have 60 days to file your Reconsideration (which is the first step in the Social Security Disability appeals process) within the Social Security Administration. The SSSA may allow another 30 to 90 days to make their decision at the Reconsideration level. Unfortunately, up to 80% of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income claimants are denied a second time.

What if you are denied a second time? Claimants denied at the Reconsideration level have up to 60 days to request a Social Security Disability hearing. At this point the SSDI or SSI application or claim is sent to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) for the region that services the area where the claimant lives.

This is where the waiting can really start. In many parts of the country the hearing case loads which are pending number in the hundreds and may be divided among only 5 to 10 Administrative Law Judges. The volume of Social Security Disability cases can be overwhelming for the number of judges available to hear the claims. It is not unusual for disability claimants to wait 12-14 months for a Social Security Disability hearing.

What can a disability lawyer not do? They cannot expedite the review of a claimant’s application at the initial application level or the reconsideration level. They also cannot move the request for a disability hearing to the front of the “line”, unless they make a request for an on the record review and attempt to get a ruling without a hearing.

So the bottom line is that disability lawyers can help increase the claimant’s chances of getting benefits at the reconsideration or hearing levels by ensuring their claim includes good medical records. They can also help claimants understand how to navigate the often complex judicial process and present a solid arguments for a a claimant’s SSDI or SSI claim before an administrative law judge. Each of these skills will improve the claimant’s chances of winning their disability claim at every level in the disability process and helping their claimants receive disability benefits as soon as possible.