Should I Appeal my Social Security Disability Denial, or get a Lawyer First?
Opinions vary widely on these issues. I've heard, and read, plenty of people make the argument that representation is unnecessary. However, if I had to file for disability, knowing what I know about the disability system, as a former disability examiner and having worked in representation, I would not represent myself on a claim. And, if I had a friend or relative who was filing for disability, I would advise them to get representation immediately after being denied on a claim, and certainly if the denial occurred at the reconsideration appeal level (because the next step is to request a disability hearing and at a hearing you absolutely want representation). Further, and this is just my own preference, I would advise anyone who was denied on a reconsideration to get representation. Why? Because the odds of winning at recon are fairly limited.
Here's one mistake that I've seen time and time again. A claimant who files for disability benefits with the social security administration gets denied and decides to find a disability representative (either a lawyer or a non-attorney claimant's representative). Weeks later, right as the deadline to appeal very closely approaches, they finally sign on with a representative (literally, by signing a fee agreement and a 1696--SSA form 1696--to designate a representative), fully expecting that the representative should handle everything without exception.
Where's the mistake in this scenario? Actually, there's several. First of all, if you need to appeal, you should always do so immediately to avoid adding more total processing time to your case. In other words, just because SSA gives you two months to appeal, that doesn't mean you should actually consume that length of time as doing so serves no purpose and is probably financially damaging to you. Secondly, if you plan to get representation following a disability denial, you should do so immediately. Why? Because your prospective representative, whoever that may be, will not be able to submit an appeal on your behalf without having signed paperwork from you. And by that, I mean the aforementioned appointment of representative form, a signed fee agreement, as well as signed medical releases (typically SSA-827 releases that will be used by social security and the representative's own in-house release forms). If you contact your prospective rep too late, it may be the case that the representative may be forced to advise you to file your appeal on your own...simply because they don't have a signed 1696 and fee agreement from you and the deadline to appeal is dangerously close.
So, should you get you appeal your SSD denial, or get a lawyer first? Well, if you plan to get a representative, do this first and do it immediately following a denial so the representative can file the appeal for you. However, if for some reason you are having trouble either getting a representative, or deciding on which one to use, file your appeal yourself to avoid wasting valuable time, and then get representation.
Additional information on Social Security Disability at www.ssdrc.com
Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog
Denial of Disability, Pain, and Medical Records
Denial on a disability application - What comes next?
Steps for Filing a Request for a Social Security Disability Hearing
Questions about Social Security Disability SSI Hearings
Filing for Disability based on Depression and Medical Evidence
Tips for filing a Social Security Disability Reconsideration
Filing for Disability, applying for benefits